Adam Barrow, President-elect of the Gambia

Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow Tuesday called on President Yahya Jammeh to end the crackdown of activists and media practitioners in the country.

Over the past few days, security officers claiming to be acting on orders from ‘the top’ have arrested and detained an unknown number of activists wearing t-shirts with the slogan Gambia Has Decided.

The officers have also  shut down three private radio stations, Teranga FM, AfriRadio and Hilltop Radio without giving any reason.

And as the crackdown continues and more activists going into hiding, Mr Barrow said he does not want to inherit a country where media freedom is fettered and human rights violated with impunity. He called on Mr Jammeh to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.

In a statement to media, Mr Barrow said: “The Office of the incoming President had written to the outgoing president to request for the opening of communication so that agreements could be reached on a transitional agenda that would ensure the release of those who are detained without trial and prevent any new arrests and detentions without due process.

The Office of the incoming President regrets that the climate of cooperation which commenced after outgoing President Jammeh accepted the results of the 1st December 2016 elections is evaporating after he changed his original position.

The Office of the incoming President wants it to be known that it does not want to inherit a country where media freedom is fettered and human rights violated with impunity. Hence, it intends to do everything it could to prevail on the institutions of the state to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.

The media, especially, are the eyes of the government and the people in any country that values democracy, good governance, rule of law and human rights. Suppression of the media would lead to a society of uncertainty.

This is why the Office of the incoming President is concerned about the current situation. It has come to the attention of the Office of the Presidentle-elect through media reports and other sources that two Radio stations are closed down by men who claimed to be acting on behalf of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The liberty of two individuals are also at stake in connection with t-shirts bearing the slogan #GambiaHasDecided.

Alpha Sey, a resident of Kotu Quarry, is reported to be picked up and transported in a vehicle near the traffic lights at Kairaba Avenue on the 31st December 2016 for wearing a t-shirt with the slogan #GambiaHasDecided by a pickup.

Wandifa Kanyi, is reported to be arrested and taken away by five men who identified themselves as agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on 2nd January 2017 around 3pm in connection with the sale of t-shirts with the slogan #GambiaHasDecided.

Furthermore, Taranga FM, a community radio located at Sinchu Alaji Village in West Coast Region (WCR), is reported to have been closed down again for the third time on Sunday 1st January, 2017 by four men who claimed to be operatives of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

Hilltop FM radio station, situated at Sukuta Lambai junction in the West Coast Region (WCR), is reported to be closed down by three men identifying themselves as personnel of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on Sunday, 1st January 2017.

The Office of the incoming President is fully convinced that the opening of the media since the campaign period has contributed to a more informed citizenry and a more informed country. It is a sign of weakness for any side of the political spectrum to resort to media closures rather than engagement to put one’s position across.

Many activists have gone into hiding

In the same vein, slogans on t-shirts have nothing to do and will not upset the existing political balance in the country. Such slogans could not be stretched in any way to constitute a destabilization agenda or a crime. The coalition is in full control of its support base and has a clear agenda that no one could derail.

The Office of the incoming President is therefore calling on the Office of the outgoing President to improve its human rights record by releasing all those who have been detained without trial as part of the process of a smooth transfer of power. Secondly, the director general of the NIA is being requested to review the reports of the recent arrests and ensure due process to improve the image of his institution during this transition process.

Thirdly, it has come to the notice of the Office of the incoming President that a mechanism for solving post electoral challenges has been established comprising all the leaders of political parties, the permanent secretary, minister of the Interior, Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector General of Police, Director General of the NIA and Director General of the Drug Law Enforcement Agency.

The Office of the incoming President calls on the UNDP to host a meeting of the inter-party committee in the face of the crisis surrounding the IEC and the security chiefs to discuss and address the post electoral challenges so that tensions could be effaced and peaceful co-existence assured until a peaceful transfer of power could be effected.

Openness and dialogue are the traits that the Gambia needs at the moment and not media closures and arbitrary arrests and detentions. All should pledge their firm allegiance to be ever true to the Gambia and make our people to live in liberty and happiness and never become a bully of our own people to make them live in captivity and fear.”