(JollofNews) – First of all, I wish to stand with Interior Minister Mai Ahmad Fatty in his last night statement concerning the events in Kanilai in calling for respect for the rule of law and upholding of democratic principles.
I welcome his reconciliatory initiatives to engage local leaders. While I wish his tone and posture could have been more reconciliatory but I fully understand the sentiments in view of this most severe threat to Gambian democracy, unity and stability.
However I totally disagree with him on the need for citizens to obtain a permit first in order to protest. That part of the statement must be withdrawn because Gambians have an entrenched right under Section 25(1)(d) to assemble and demonstrate peaceably without arms.
The Public Order Act, which requires a permit to demonstrate is inconsistent with the Constitution and as per Section 4 of the Constitution it is therefore null and void to the extent of that contravention. This is why the protest of Solo Sandeng was justified. Hence the agitation in Kanilai must not make the Government take back our rights. Let us stand against it.
I appreciate and welcome the gesture he made towards the deceased by expressing condolences to his family. However I wish to state that the death of Haruna Jatta must be thoroughly investigated and the public must know what exactly happened and necessary action to follow the investigation. All incidents of violence, injury or death must be investigated and justice dispensed accordingly.
The hard truth though is that the agitations in Foni must not be seen only in terms of the unfortunate and unnecessary shooting and the death of a citizen. It must not be seen in terms of the riots in Farato or the protests that took place in Kartong or other places in the Gambia. Rather these Foni agitations are different and unique as they speak to the very essence of our sovereignty. Farato riots or Kartong protest were not aimed at overthrowing our democratic dispensation in favour dictatorship.
Those incidents are in full exercise of their democratic right to protest for legitimate democratic reasons. But the Foni agitations and in particular the Kanilai incident is not in support of expanding democracy in the Gambia and securing the sovereignty of citizens. It is aimed at rolling back our democracy and killing our sovereignty by bringing back Yaya Jammeh.
Hence All Gambians must be severely worried and insulted that any human being would protest in support of Yaya Jammeh especially when there has been no arbitrary action against Yaya Jammeh or APRC. Hence the protest by folks in Foni and APRC is a direct affront to the very sovereignty, dignity and security of the Gambia.
It is an attempt to undermine justice and peace in the Gambia by aiming to ignore, deny and defend the atrocities and loot of Yaya Jammeh and APRC. It is an act that disrespects victims as it justifies and celebrates a man and his party that have been objectively and incontestably known to have flouted the rule of law and constitutionality in the Gambian for 22 years.
Therefore let us go beyond partisan and sectarian sentiments to look into the very heart and rationale of the claim that Yaya Jammeh must come back. Since 9 December 2016 these people joined Yaya Jammeh to refuse to accept the new dispensation and still consider Yaya Jammeh as the only president of the Gambia. That is the crux of the issue. We must not therefore allow the unfortunate and unnecessary shooting and death to overshadow the very threat that lie beneath this agitation. We must demand investigations of the incident but we must stand even firmer to condemn the entire incident as undemocratic and a threat to national security. We must not allow a minority in Foni and APRC to hold us hostage!
What has happened in Kanilai and before that in Sibanor and Kanfenda is not about Adama Barrow or UDP or PDOIS or any tribe. Rather it is about a group of citizens seeking to exonerate Yaya Jammeh and to defend dictatorship with the aim of taking back the country to that tyranny. In Chad, we have never seen any Chadian seeking to bring back Hissene Habre from Senegal. We have not seen any Burkinabe seeking to bring back Campoare from Ivory Coast back to become president of Burkina Faso again. We have not seen Tunisians seeking to bring back Ben Ali from Saudi Arabia back to Tunisia as president again. All of these cases are about tyrants that have shed blood and tears in their countries. Hence any Gambian seeking to bring back Yaya Jammeh means that such citizen disrespects each and every Gambian and endangers the unity, stability and progress of the Gambia.
In that regard, I would suggest to the Government to strengthen its engagement with the communities of Foni and the rest of the country to build bridges and protect democracy and peace. It is necessary that the relevant authorities such as the Justice, Regional Governments and Interior ministers together with the local government authorities in West Coast Region conduct a joint mediation tour within the Fonis.
These agitators are a minority in Foni and the rest of Foni must be alerted to the very meaning of this agitation. They must be made aware that these agitators risk isolating Foni as a whole and give it a negative perception in not only Senegambia but even beyond. They could turn the region into a conflict zone leading to unnecessary loss of lives. This will certainly impact on the abilities and opportunities that Foni deserves which in the bigger picture also limits the development and the unity of the Gambia.
Secondly, we cannot over emphasize the need for the Chief Servant Adama Barrow to start to meet communities and speak to the nation. We elected Adama Barrow and not Mai Fatty or Baa Tambadou. Hence we need to see and hear Barrow speak to the issues flanked by Mai and Baa and other relevant authorities to show us that he is in charge and in unison with his lieutenants.
We need to see Barrow invite communities and groups to State House to discuss national issues. We need to see Barrow doing weekly national address and periodic press conferences. We need to see and feel his presence not just because he is the president anyway, but in practice getting on the ground and engaging citizens. He has to show and be heard not only at international conferences and interviews with foreign press, but speaking directly to the Gambia.
Finally let us all stand up to let APRC and its minority folks in Foni realize that they insult our nation, endanger our democracy and are insensitive to victims when they trumpet Yaya Jammeh. If they cannot be ashamed or be in remorse because of Yaya Jammeh, the least we expect them to do is to support that tyrant. The shooting by ECOMIG and the death of a citizen is most unfortunate and unnecessary. But this must not overshadow the underlying current of the whole affair.
ECOMIG came to the Gambia in the first place because of the very specific situation caused by Yaya Jammeh and APRC. Therefore the decision to deploy ECOMIG forces anywhere in the Gambia cannot be left in the hands of citizens to decide because that will effectively undermine and make useless their presence in the first place. That is a recipe for disaster. As an international force, which did not bring itself into the Gambia, if any Gambian objects to their presence such protest must be directed at the Government and not to ECOMIG.
God Bless The Gambia.