By Flex Dan, @FlexDan_YT
News reaching Gainako news desk report that Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers have been entering churches in the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) region to stop drumming. The alleged drumming ban enforcement took place on Sunday June 12th 2016. At least three churches have reported that PIU officers have entered church premises with batons to stop drumming as the Country observes the holy month of Ramadan.
Since the Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh’s declaration of the Gambia as an Islamic State on December 2015 he has since temporarily imposed on women to wear a head tie (hijab) in public offices and has now instructed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to issue a press release banning festivities involving drumming and music during Ramadan. Members of the Opposition and concerned citizens have since raised concerns that both the Islamic State declaration and the ban on drumming are unconstitutional and have no legal standing.
Wednesday June 8th – Police Imposes Ban on Drumming
The IGP’s issues a press release published by the Daily Observer which read “In honour of the Holy Month is hereby informing the General Public that all Ceremonies, Festivities and Programmes that involves Drumming, Music and Dance during the day or at night are prohibited.
All those engaged in the practice are therefore warned to desist from such acts otherwise they will be eventually apprehended and face the full force of the law without compromise. The Inspector General of Police is hereby advising the General Public to report any such persons or groups to the police as stern action will be taken against those found wanting of violations.”
Concerned citizens have raised legitimate concerns that the IGP’s statement is divisive and encourages spying of fellow citizens for exercising their constitutional and God given rights to worship within the cultural and traditional norms.
Thursday June 9th – Coalition of Pastors
On the following day of the Press Release a notice circulated by the Christian community stated that a team of pastors representing the Christian community had visited the office of the Inspector General of Police to seek clarification on the press release prohibiting “all Ceremonies, Festivities and Programmes that involve Drumming, Music and Dance during the day or at night”.
The release stated that the office of the Inspector General of Police clarified that the release is in no way intended to affect Christian worship, so Christians are free to worship throughout the country. Assuring that normal Christian events may continue as normal. The Christian community has come under some criticism as some activist are not impressed that a Coalition can be formed to address the ban on drumming and not Jammeh’s threat to “wipe out Mandinkas”.
Sunday June 12th – PIU Officers Stop Drumming in Churches
Contrary to IGP’s reassurances to the Christian community, on Sunday 12th June Gainako was reliably informed that PIU officers went into Churches within the Kanifing Municipal Council stopping the use of drums during church proceedings. This shocked many who had been informed that Christian worship can continue as normal.
One Christian stated that “we were warned by PIU officers not to use drums because it is a directive from the President”. Gainako’s correspondent reports that one church in Fajikunda and two in Serrekunda Area were affected. It’s alleged that PIU officers entered church compounds with batons to enforce the drumming ban.
It’s now expected that some Churches may practice self-censorship during the month of Ramadan and desist from using drums and musical instruments for fear of further reprisal.
According to The Gambian Constitution, Gambia is still a Secular state. The Office of the President and the Inspector General of Police are all civil servants and expected to comply fully with provisions of the constitution which is the supreme law of the Gambia. The provisions listed below guarantee the practice of religion and can be quoted for every law enforcement agent to comply with.
Gambian Constitution Provisions
- The first provision of the Constitution, Chapter 1 (Subsection 1) – The Republic, states that “The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic”.
- Under the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedom, Provision 25 guarantees the Religious Rights of every citizen to practice any religion of their choice. That provision states that “Every person shall have the right to freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice.”
- Provision 32 specifically guarantees culture and provision 33 provides protection from discrimination.