Kanilai protest: No time for blame game

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

In the aftermath of the riot in Kanilai on Friday which led to the death of one Haruna Jatta and several others sustaining injuries, views both on and off line were the polar opposite of each other, and most of them blaming one side or the other.

According to the pro-Kaniai rioters, it is the constitutional-guaranteed right of the Kanilai residents to take to the streets to protest to vent out their reservation with the presence of the ECOMIG forces and Gambian soldiers in their area. 

Others said the soldiers, notably the ECOMIG, were wrong in their reaction for they were highhanded on the rioters.

While this is not the time to apportion blames or to say who is right and wrong, it is crucial to understand that Kanilai people, like every other person, have a right to protest in support of Yahya Jammeh or against the occupation of the ECOMIG forces in their territory.  The right to peaceful demonstration is one of the fundamental rights enshrine in the constitution and which the new government vowed to protect. 

The law does not, however, only give the permission to demonstrate but it also states the acceptable parameters within which it could be done.

If it is true that some members of the protesters were armed with traditional weapons then the interior minister was right when he called it a violent protest, and an act of provocation against members of the security forces.

The demonstration that is permitted by the constitution is a peaceable one, one where the demonstrators are not armed.  The Kanilai incident apparently failed that test.

Provocation, the legal minds say, is one of the defences which may exculpate or mitigate one from criminal liability.  That is to say even the law recognises that human beings are prone to losing their control when provoked or under extreme rage and in such situation, violent reaction should be expected, and justice demands that account be taken of this natural tendency of human beings in making judgments.

However, in as much as the law recognises human weakness, it does not condone human ferocity, as was the response of the Kanilai forces. It was out fashion for the ECOMIG or Gambian soldiers to use live bullet on civilian protesters.  They may have been armed but the types of arms they were armed with did not justify the use of live bullet on them. 

The first resort to quell violent protest of civilians by the military forces should not be live ammunition.

The government should find a lasting solution through dialogue with the Kanilai people because the budding tension there if not control could add further pressure to the already volatile security situation of the country.

The authorities should not play down this protest; measures should be taken to avoid its repetition anywhere, not only in Kanilai.

The security of the state is entirely the domain of the government and it must exercise this prerogative to maintain sanity and security, and law and order in the country.

“You either abide by the law or you will be consumed by the law,”

Mai Ahmad Fatty