Gambia (Tasnim) – Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow promised an overhaul of the country’s feared security forces Saturday as he works to rebuild a country that lived under authoritarian rule for more than 22 years. In his first news conference since…
Rights at Risk as Calls for Jammeh’s Exit Intensify
The government of President Yahya Jammeh, defeated in Gambia’s December presidential election, has arbitrarily arrested opposition sympathizers and closed three independent radio stations in the past week, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. Jammeh is required under Gambia’s Constitution to cede power to President-elect Adama Barrow by January 19, 2017.
Since December 31, intelligence agents have arrested and briefly detained at least six people for wearing or selling T-shirts bearing the logo of the #Gambiahasdecided movement, which has called for Jammeh to respect the election results and step down. Several senior members of the movement have fled Gambia after receiving credible threats from alleged National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers. On January 1, 2017, intelligence agents forcibly closed three private radio stations, depriving Gambians of independent sources of information during this critical period.
Expressing dismay at the takeover of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) premises by the military in Gambia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the security forces to immediately vacate the Commission and to refrain from any further acts that could jeopardise efforts towards the peaceful transfer of power.
“This action violates the independent status of the Commission under the Gambian constitution, and could compromise the sensitive electoral material under the IEC’s custody,” said Mr. Ban, according to a statement issued by his office.
“He condemns this outrageous act of disrespect of the will of the Gambian people and defiance towards the international community at a time when a high-level Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation was in the country to broker a peaceful transfer of power,” the statement added.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has rejected the outcome of the presidential election in the country, in which he lost to opposition’s Adama Barrow.
Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years, surprisingly lost the latest election, gaining 36.7% of votes against Barrow’s 45.5%.
“After a thorough investigation, I have decided to reject the outcome of the recent election. I lament serious and unacceptable abnormalities which have reportedly transpired during the electoral process,” Jammeh said on Friday, as quoted by The Guardian.
The Gambia’s autocratic president, Yahya Jammeh, who once claimed a “billion-year” mandate to rule, has agreed to concede defeat after a shock election loss to a real-estate developer.
Jammeh has ruled the tiny west African nation for more than two decades. If he goes ahead with a peaceful handover of power, challenger Adama Barrow will become its third head of state since independence in 1962.
The head of the Gambia’s electoral commission, Alieu Momarr Njai, said Jammeh would concede on Friday. A video of his speech has already been recorded and is being edited, sources told the Guardian.
Government Has Blocked Internet, Threatened Protest Ban
Gambian authorities should respect the rights of Gambians to peacefully express their views on the outcome of the December 1, 2016 presidential election. Prior to the vote, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh warned that protests against the election would not be permitted and the government blocked internet communications and international calls.
Although the two-week election campaign was peaceful, and included many large opposition and government rallies, President Jammeh responded to a November 29 media query about possible protests following the elections, saying, “In this country we don’t allow demonstrations.” At about 8 p.m. on November 30, the government blocked all internet services in Gambia as well as incoming and outgoing international calls. Online messaging services, such as WhatsApp and Viber, have been blocked for several weeks.
Media Freedom Crucial Prior to December 1 Election
Gambian authorities arbitrarily detained three journalists just days before the November 16 start of the two-week presidential election campaign, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should appropriately charge or release the journalists and ensure that Gambian and international media can operate without fear of harassment or arbitrary arrest.
On November 8, officials from Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) arrested the director-general of Gambia’s state television and radio broadcaster, Momodou Sabally, along with his colleague Bakary Fatty. NIA officers arrested Alhagie Manka, an independent photojournalist, on November 10. All three have yet to appear in court, in violation of Gambian law.
On July 20, 2016, a Gambian High Court sentenced the leader of the main United Democratic Party (UDP) (currently in opposition), Ousainou Darboe, and 18 other opposition activists to three years in prison for — among other charges — participating in a demonstration without a licence. They were arrested on April 19 in the capital, Banjul.
The opposition has denounced the trial, while human rights organisation Amnesty International has noted that these prison sentences for opposition leaders continue the downward spiral for human rights in The Gambia.