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Activists frown at arrest of women and children in Foni

Feb 21, 2017, 10:36 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

Gambian rights activists and individuals concerned about the rights, welfare and protection of children and women yesterday frowned at the arrest of women and children at Kanfenda, in Foni.

According to reports, the incident happened on Saturday when coalition supporters who attended the 52nd independence anniversary celebration and inauguration of President Adama Barrow were in a bus returning from the Kombos.

Reaching Kanfenda, the bus stopped and a child with a plate of oranges approached the bus, when the passengers told her that they would not buy the orange of a murderer.

Then the statement turned into a bitter quarrel between the passengers and the people around the area, with exchanges of insults.

After the bus left, a few minutes later, trucks of paramilitary men stormed the area arresting almost everyone in the area regardless of who was involved.

The report indicated that more than 50 people were arrested, and half of those arrested were children and women, including a pregnant woman and some nursing mothers.

Some of those who were arrested also wore APRC T-shirts. It was also confirmed that children as young as 13 years old were arrested and kept at both Bwiam and Brusubi police stations, without being told why they are in custody and when they will be released.

Family, friends and loved ones from Kanfenda and the Kombos who heard the news yesterday morning paid fare and went to the Brusubi Police Station, to find out whether their loved ones and relatives are kept there.

According to some of them who were found at the police station, they were surprised because they did not even know why their people were arrested, and taken all the way from Bwiam to Brusubi Police Station.

Some of them told this reporter that the station officer told them they had received a directive from the government to either released them or take them to court.

Some of the family members also denied being affiliated to any political party, saying that they were just arrested whilst they were on their way to some places, after the paramilitary stormed the area.

According to a child rights activist in Bwiam, who wants to remain anonymous, “the manner in which the children were arrested and taken to the police stations is very wrong.”

He said the paramilitary just arrested everyone they found at the scene, after the bus that caused the problem left. He said the country is looking for ways and means of reconciliation, but the way and manner things are being handled in such cases will not bring about any positive change.

He said they are not interested in which party they belong to and who started the fight, but the fact that they are women and children who deserved to be treated well and protected, and that the government should do something about it fast. He said that women and children should not be treated like such, just because they are found in the middle of a quarrel.

He said adults should be able to help children grow in a violence-free environment, but that this could not happen when they cause problems and make the children to suffer for those problems.

He blamed the ones who took part in the arrest, saying that he is fully convince that they know that the ones they are arresting are children, but they still went ahead and arrested them.

He also added that as Gambians, there is no way that development can take place if whenever there is a problem, those who suffer are children and women and those arresting them are men who are husbands and fathers.

He said there is need for dialogue so that peace will reign in our neighbourhood, and people can learn to live in peace and harmony without hurting each other’s feelings with words.

One Fatou Janneh said it is unfortunate how people want to turn the country into these days. She asked what happened to the unity and peaceful co-existence that we as a nation enjoyed before politics started dividing us, and making us turn ourselves into each other’s enemy.

She said those in the bus that started the fight, even if they are coalition supporters, should not go scot-free to the detriment of those women and children who are behind bars for nothing.

She said Gambians, whether they are coalition or APRC supporters, should eschew vengeance and work to develop the country.

She called on the government to release all the women and children arrested, and send out words of advice to those who were in that bus that caused the trouble so that they will stop using remarks like that on their fellow Gambians.

She also condemned the behaviour of the security officers who arrested the nursing mothers and a pregnant woman, saying that should be a thing of the past now, if the government really respects the women of this country.