‘Gambia sliding towards dictatorship’

Jul 2, 2020, 10:41 AM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Madi Jobarteh, a prominent human rights activist has claimed that the country is moving towards dictatorship, arguing that the current status quo is a push towards dictatorship and not democracy.

“I think so many instances have happened in the country over the period clearly indicate that we’re moving toward dictatorship. Expressing yourself and then you are questioned by the police means the police don’t want the citizens to hold the government to account.”

Mr. Jobarteh was speaking yesterday outside the Kairaba Police Station, where he was questioned on Tuesday by the police at the Kairaba station regarding an interview he granted during the recent “Black Lives Matter” protest, which took place opposite the U.S. Embassy.

He was quoted as saying the government didn’t do enough to ensure justice for the late Haruna Jatta a peaceful protester who was reportedly killed by the ECOMIG Forces that were stationed in Kanilai; Ousman Darboe who was also reportedly killed by personnel of the Anti-Crime Unit of The Gambia Police Forces and Kebba Secka, a former student of the University of The Gambia who was stabbed to death by a police officer.

He has now been charged by the police for false information and broadcasting in accordance with Section 181A (1) of the criminal code.

He said: “When citizens can’t hold the government to account, then that means we are going to have a situation of dictatorship because that means we’re going to have state that is unchecked, hence unchecked state is dictatorship.”

He recalled that Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, a political science lecturer at the UTG was also called by the police for questioning and only to be detained by the police for 24 to 48 hours. He added that some politicians like Fabakary Tombong-Jatta, Mamma Kandeh were also called for questioning.

“Again, if you look at what has been done to members of operation Three Years Jotna protesters, declaring their organisation to be “ban” are instances of dictatorship. The arbitrary closure of media houses and assault of journalists are signs that are very worrying for our democracy and they definitely don’t reflect democracy rather they reflect a dictatorship.”

Gambians, he went on, were expecting a system change after the change of government in 2016. “That was the expectation of everyone. We were expecting that we will have a system change and we will have abandoned all vestiges of the past, restore democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights,” he stated.

However, he was quick to add that to a large extent, “we enjoy a civil and political space but we have many significant instances of infringements that concern me for the fact that dictatorship doesn’t erupt in one day.”

“So, when you consider all these infringements over time, what it indicates is that, we are gradually moving toward dictatorship and away from democracy.”

He claimed that the police have failed to inform him as to who ordered for his questioning and extending his bail. “However, the impression I got from my interaction with the police is that it tells me that Pateh Bah is receiving orders from somebody above him and that could be as high as you think which is a concern really.”

The police, he opined, is supposed to be independent and professional. The police is supposed to be an institution who will act according to the law but not according to the opinion or to the orders of someone particularly when it concerns violations of the rights of citizens.”

Madi Jobarteh, who is also the Westminster Country Representative, has been asked to report to the Kairaba Police Station today. “I will not be reporting to the station after today. If the Police want me, let them come to my house and arrest me,” he emphasised.