Mr Darboe (left) and his supporters in the dock (Photo credit: Freedom Newspaper)
Mr Darboe (left) and his supporters in the dock (Photo credit: Freedom Newspaper)

(JollofNews) – The special representative of the UN secretary general for West Africa and Sahel urged Gambia’s government Thursday to release an opposition leader and dozens of his supporters from prison.

In April this year, Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party and a host of his colleagues were sentenced to three years in jail after holding a peaceful demonstration demanding the release of their comrades, two of whom later died in state custody.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas told a news conference late on Thursday evening: “I entreat the government to release the 30 protesters involved in the April demonstrations, as well as the 14 others who are in pre-trial detention following the May demonstration.

“I reiterate the calls by the UN and other partners on the government to conduct an independent investigation into the deaths in custody of Ebrima Solo Krummah and Solo Sandeng…”

Despite the death of the two UDP members in state custody, there has been no known investigation despite repeated calls by the UN and various human rights groups.

Chambas concluded a two-day visit to the small West African country to assess the situation a month before Gambia goes to the polls.

Profile: Gambia’s Lawyer Ousainou Darboe

The UN envoy — who was also in the country when protests erupted in April and May — has enjoined the government to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

UDP Supporters Demand Justice
UDP Supporters Demand Justice

Gambians will vote on Dec. 1 for a new leader and Chambas urged the government and the country’s electoral authorities to ensure “a transparent presidential election”.

Gambia’s opposition has often criticized state institutions for been highly partisan in favor of Yahya Jammeh during elections.

Chambas urged the security forces to “discharge their noble responsibilities in a diligent, impartial, professional and strictly apolitical manner”.

President Jammeh is seeking his fifth term in office and was nominated by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission today.

He is facing two opposition movements, one of which is a coalition of seven parties while the other, the Gambia Democratic Party, was formed by his former ally, Mamma Kandeh.