Solo Sandeng leading the protest
Solo Sandeng leading the protest

At least three newly elected executive members of the Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) are among the anti-government protesters currently detained by police.

Ebrima Solo Sandeng, national organising secretary, his deputy,  Lang Marong  and Fatoumatta Jawara,  youth wing female president of the UDP, were arrested on Thursday afternoon by security officers for staging a street protest against the government of President Yahya Jammeh.

The three executive members were all elected at this month’s UDP congress in Basse.

Other UDP sympathisers who were also arrested include Nokoi Njie, Fatou Camara, Falang Sonko, Faa Gitteh and Baba .M. Fatty. They remain in detention and yet to be charged with any criminal offence.

The protesters on Thursday arrived at the busy Westfield junction some 12 kilometres away from the capital, Banjul, during the afternoon rush hour and displayed a banner with the slogan:  “We Need Proper Electoral Reform”.

They also chanted anti-government slogan and demanded the resignation of President Yahya Jammeh.

The UDP protesters
The UDP protesters

However, soon after the protest began, a contingent of security officers arrived at the scene, nicked the demonstrators and restored order.

The UDP leadership has not commented on the protest but sources said the party’s executive will hold a meeting this Friday to discuss their next line of action.

Although the right to peaceful protest is recognised under Section 25 of the Gambian constitution as well as international human rights treaties ratified by the Gambia, the country’s criminal laws requires people to obtain permit from the Inspector General of Police before taking to the street.

However, over the years, police have systematically refused requests for permission to hold demonstrations, including  peaceful ones. Police have also occasionally refused to issue permits to opposition parties wishing to hold political rallies.