Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The police must understand their role in a democracy if our young and fragile democratic dispensation is to be protected and consolidated.  The police and other neutral state’s institution such as the judiciary, the military etc must maintain their neutrality stands in the discharge of their functions to compel the political executive to device and formulate polices and programmes that represent the wishes of sovereign people and be accountable if  they failed to do so without relying on the police and other state’s forces of intimidation in the name of security concerns or “narrow nationalism”

The police in a democratic state should be essentially concern with protecting and upholding the rule of law; protect the citizens and their fundamental democratic and constitution rights. They (the police) must not have a wider political function in a democracy.

However, the police power should not be harnessed to the need of the government to facilitate their self-perpetuation at the expense of the tax payers and sovereign citizen otherwise the democracy will change to autocracy or amounts to self-perpetuating governance.

A clear indication of these facts happened in the former president, Yahya Jammeh, regime where the police power and other state’s forces of intimidation aided him to prolong his regime for 22 year even though he lost his legitimacy as a president at some points. The lack of independence of state’s institutions denies the Gambia until December,2017 a democratic transfer of governmental power  from one government to another since the attainment of right to self determination in February 1965.

It is an open secret that the police were unconstitutionally used in Jammeh’s regime to quell down anti-government protesters/demonstrators with the aid of the public order act which is use injudiciously to deter citizens from publicly airing their grievances . The sad April 14 demonstration in the year 2016 which resulted to the mysterious death of Solo sandeng is a testimony.

The right to protest or peaceful assemble is critical in a functioning democracy. The police must understanding that government can violate that rights of the citizens by criminalizing protest or peaceful assemble in the name of national security and other means  to deter public expression especially if it threatens their legitimacy.

The denial , grant of permit and later its’ revocation to the #occupywestfield by the police in the name of nation security and criminalizing it with the aid of the public order act is unacceptable and not good for our democracy. This inconsistency by the police is against accountability, neutrality transparency, and an insult to the citizens of the Gambia who are the depositories of sovereign and to who the police drove their sovereignty from.

Finally, the police should withdraw the revocation of the the #ocupywesfield permit and facilitate the right of the organizers and planed protesters to peaceful assemble and protect their democratic and constitutional demands.

Editor’s note: The views expressed here is the authors own makings and they do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of this paper.

Author: Sanna Badjie, University of the Gambia
Source: Picture: Sanna Badjie