By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT on Twitter
Barely two days after the April 10 – 11, 2000 anniversary, Gainako can confirm that Alhagie Ceesay was rushed to hospital yesterday night. As the manager of the only independent radio station Teranga FM, Alhagie is being persecuted by The Gambian Government for sedition. He was arrested on July 2nd 2015 by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Officials. After his initial arrest he was released, re-arrested and held incommunicado for two weeks. To date he is being held for over 9 months.
Speaking to a concerned family member today, Alhagie has been hospitalised three times in the last six days [Friday to Wednesday inclusive]. It can be recalled that in January 2016 Alhagie was hospitalised twice in a month, sparking health concerns on his fitness to stand trial. His family members are very concerned and mentioned to Gainako that “they are denying everybody access to see Alhagie he is very, very sick we don’t know whether he is dead”. During his incarceration by the Government, he was denied access to his family and a notice was posted on the main gate of the notorious Mile 2 prison confirming this. What is most worrying is that Alhagie’s family are currently being monitored and pursued by NIA agents.
The rest of this news article will canvas fresh concerns from Gambians and the International Community who continue to mount pressure demanding for Alhagie’s immediate release.
On March 7th The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and 36 other freedom of expression organisations across the globe, petitioned the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to prevail on President Yahyah Jammeh to release Alhagie Ceesay. Two days later Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists released a statement calling for The Gambia to release Alhagie Ceesay “who has been arbitrarily detained”. The press release also called for the Government to “drop all charges against him.”
A youth activist residing in The Gambia lamented today that “it’s in-humane to detain someone in poor health condition that has committed no crime in the first place to warrant detention. It’s so sad to see a productive young Gambian being detained by the government for an unjustifiable and bail-able offence. This is total violation of Alhagie Ceesay’s Human Rights. Gambian youths must not sit down quietly while one of our own are being persecuted for so long.”
Another young activist whose identity is also been withheld due to security concerns highlighted that “if this can happen to Mr Ceesay now who among the Gambian youths are safe? Alhagie’s case should be a concern to everyone and we the youths cannot let him face it alone. For that being the case I a urging the state to withdraw all the false charges against him.” Alhagie is currently being held for allegedly distributing photos of Jammeh with a gun pointed at him.
Speaking to Gainako today, veteran Gambian activist, Coach Pasamba Jow remarked that “the treatment of Alhagie Ceesay is a gross travesty of justice. It also exposes the wickedness of the regime and the extent to which Jammeh’s tyranny will go to abuse Gambians. I implore the political parties, Bar Association and the [Gambia Press Union] GPU to mobilize their members and supporters to attend the next hearing and demand an end to this abuse. Gambians must stand up for justice and against this blatant mockery of justice.” Alhagie’s next court hearing is scheduled for next Thursday 21st April from 1pm.
Exiled Gambian activist and author of “Africa’s Hell on Earth”, Omar Bah added his voice to call for Alhagie’s release. “I call on the Gambian government to release Journalist Alhagie Ceesay forthwith. His only crime is to speak truth to power and should be let free. We hold the Gambia regime responsible for anything that happens to this young man. He is currently very ill and the responsibility lies on the authorities to both free him and offer him treatment. Anything short of this should warrant the Gambia civil society including political and media groups to take to the streets to protest against the blatant disregard of our laws by the Jammeh regime. This arbitrary way of governing should end and I call on Gambians and the international community to expand the pressure on the dictatorial regime in Gambia in order to free Journalist Alhagie Ceesay.”
What Next for Alhagie Ceesay?
It can be recalled that in November 2015, 33 youths were arrested in Kartong for protesting against illegal mining in their community. The protest was sparked by the death of a young boy who fell into an open ditch, left behind after sand mining operations. Within the space of a week all 33 environmental activists were released due to overwhelming pressure from Gambians both home and abroad. All this occurred while Alhagie and many other innocent Gambian citizens were still being held without due process.
Yesterday Gambian based newspaper Foroyaa, published an article recalling the demise of the late Sheriff Dibba who died in Police custody. The Jammeh regime continues to demonstrate an acute disregard for human life, especially towards those deemed anti-government. Gambians must learn from the Kartong saga and it must be highlighted that urgent situations require urgent actions. As time goes by Alhagie Ceesay’s situation looks increasingly ominous, considering the dangerous precedence set by the government in Sheriff Dibba’s case. The sooner Alhagie is released, the sooner he can receive the urgent treatment he so desperately needs. Failure to release him will leave government answerable to a manslaughter charge and The Gambian people wallowing in their conscience. Suma hamon, romba na – Had I known is always too late.
SoundCloud link to a recent program on Alhagie Ceesay by MamaLinguere Sarr – https://soundcloud.com/gainako-radio/11apr16-april-10-tribute-new-iec-chair-and-journalist-a-ceesay-case