By Flex Dan, @FlexDan_YT
The #GambiaHasDecided movement has taken the country by storm with free t-shirts, a social media campaign and unprecedented billboards with the simple message reinforcing the recently concluded 1st December 2016 elections. Soon after elections results declaring Mr Adama Barrow as President Elect, APRC billboards of outgoing President Jammeh were destroyed by the general public. In a perceived retaliation from the outgoing President and his associate’s #GambiaHasDecided billboards are being destroyed by military personnel.
In a press statement issued on 28th December, the civil society initiative who call themselves a “non-violent group exercising its constitutional right to Freedom of Speech [and] Association” clearly identify Mr Bala Jahumpa and security personnel for “trying to silence – the voice of the Gambian people who voted for change.” The press statement signed by the groups Chair was issued to the media and copied to the Chief of staff of the Gambian Armed Forces, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of interior, the President of Gambia Bar Association, the Inspector General of Police, and the Director General of the National Road Authority.
Distancing themselves with the destruction of Jammeh’s billboards, the group recall that they “heard the outgoing President complain about the vandalization of APRC posters and did not condone the destruction of any APRC private property.” In a bold move the group expressed that they think “it is ironic that the executive with the monopoly of power and security is using the same apparatus to destroy private property to silence our voices.” Since the elections Gambians have found a new lease of freedom and demanding that their properties are protected “as citizens of The Gambia and [their]constitutional rights respected.
#GambiaHasDecided reaffirmed that their initiative is for the preservation of democracy which they believe is the only way to ensure peace and stability in The Gambia and urge outgoing President Jammeh – to advise his security men to desist from destroying their billboards and banners. The move to silence the voices of Gambians was met with a number of defiant messages on social media.
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Recent Media Crackdown
In late November Amnesty International issued a press release headlined “Gambia: Freedom of Expression Must Not End after Votes are Counted”. In the release Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West Africa, Steve Cockburn highlighted the importance of respecting people’s rights to freedom of expression. “It is crucial that these glimmers of freedom do not end after the votes are counted, and this is no time for complacency. Dozens of people remain behind bars in Gambia simply for expressing their opinion, and journalists, human rights defenders and civil society organizations still fear reprisals for speaking out. Gambians are claiming their rights, and whoever is elected must ensure they are respected.”
In November 2016, barely a month before elections, photographer Alhagie Manka of State of Mic was arrested by security officials from the National Intelligence Agency. These security officers are known to be responsible for countless enforced disappearances and report directly to outgoing President Jammeh. On the day of the election the Government shut the international gateway and the internet to isolate The Gambia from the international community. A few days ago, popular TV show presenter Moe Blacka was arrested temporarily for a few hours for interviewing members of the general public on he’s “Word on The Streets” show.
Social Media Reactions to Tearing Down of Billboards
“Bringing the #GambiaHasDecided billboards down will not change nothing.”
“To these soldiers, the Gambia has not decided. Bringing down #GambiaHasDecided posters”
“When they go low again, we go high once more. We just replaced the billboard in Kairaba Avenue but this time with stickers. Let’s see how they gonna get this one out. #GambiaHasDecided”
“They are at it again. We put up four billboards and eye witnesses saw state security personnel destroying our billboards. But like I said before, when they go low, we go high. We will keep on printing more billboards.”
“Every billboard that we put up represents the voice of the Gambian people. Every billboard they try to destroy represents them trying to suppress the voice of the Gambian people … Now the international media and the outside world is hearing those voices you try to suppress. The billboards will continue, our voice is only getting louder. We are saying #GambiaHasDecided”
“We derive courage from those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, from those who spent time in jail standing for what is right, from those who cast their ballots peacefully for change, from those who spoke truth to power from near and afar. Our courage is that of our diverse peoples who have decided for change without compromise. We refuse to be intimidated now because we have spoken and our will shall be manifested, as God stands for truth and the truth is with the people.”
The demand for #GambiaHasDecided T-Shirts are overwhelming, And they are tearing down our #GambiaHasDecided billboards but our courage and voices will not be drowned. We will continue our campaign and will not relent. We need every support in this worthy cause. Kindly Donate and lets END #Dictatorship.
For The Gambia Our Homeland. https://www.gofundme.com/gambiahasdecided