Gambia’s Attorney General Ba Tambedou has yet again come under fire this time for a press release from the President’s office claiming that the President has accepted plea from the Faraba Community for recommended charges against PIUs to be dropped and the case discontinued from legal proceedings. The Presidential press release published by Gainako and other news outlets indicated that the President has issued an order to discontinue the case after an appeal from the Faraba community. Readers may recalled that in 2018 an incident occurred in Faraba where three citizens were shot and killed by armed Police Intervention Unit. This crisis led to the resignation of the former Inspector General of Police Kinteh. The President was pressured to set up a commission to investigate the incident. The commission submitted a report and recommended that those involved be prosecuted. A case was filed in court and proceedings had started. The commission which lasted for several months cost tax payers millions of Dalasis.
Yesterday out of the blue a Press Release was issued from the President’s office declaring the case to be discontinued and all charges be dropped as a result of intervention from the Faraba community. As expected the press release attracted immediate condemnation from Gambians all over the globe especially the Diaspora. Citizens challenged the President’s Executive authority to openly interfere with an ongoing criminal case as asking for it to be discontinued. Many referenced the constitution to indicate that the President does not have such powers. Instead the powers rest in the purview of the Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecutions. The outcry was immediate and the backlash vibrated across to the AG Chambers.
As has been the case on several occasions the Attorney General Ba Tambedou appears to have been caught unawares that such declaration from the President’s office violates common sense laws and the constitution of the Gambia. Such a press release should never be released to the public without the consultation and approval of the Attorney General. In essence the press release should have been released by the AG’s office. In several other instances Ba Tambedou has been caught in such a mess. Readers will recalled that a pardon was issued to a Norwegian alleged Pedophiles who was pardoned by the President without the AG’s permission. This was yet another of many others he embarrassingly missed. Time and again this Attorney General whose qualification for the role is unquestionable has been tangled in mess after mess.
Feeling the mounting pressure and embarrassment the Attorney General issued a press release to safe the President’s office from yet another embarrassment. It appears that the people surrounding the President are so desperate to paint President Barrow in a good picture that they jump and issue press statements without proper consultation. It is hard to believe that the press team at the State House including the government spokesperson surrounding President Barrow are in a whole different world. Their press statements are often full of mistakes and this is yet another one embarrassing episode. What these government fail to understand is that those days of dictatorship where everything slides by without challenge is no longer the case. Gambians are fully conscious of the Executive powers and functions of government. Thus they have been calling the President and his office out on almost every misstep.
The Attorney General can only describe the Press release as “Poor choice of words”. In his subsequent press release Ba indicated that the case is still under review directly contradicting the Press Statement. He try to explain that the President was only consulted for his oversight of the AG in this case. He hastened to mention that “The AG Affirms that the Office of the President did not, and has never attempted to, interfere with the exercise of this discretion, and therefore considers the recent press release from the Office of the President as an unfortunate choice of words. Below is the AG’s Press Statement. You read the statement and be the Judge what is going on here…
AG’s Press Release:
The Office of the Attorney General notes the concerns expressed over the recent press release from the Office of the President about the discontinuation of the prosecution of the Faraba Banta PIU 5 and others, and wishes to inform the general public that the said press release from the Office of the President should only be regarded as conveying the Presidency’s support to a request by the affected families in Faraba Banta to discontinue the criminal cases resulting from the Faraba Banta Commission of Inquiry. The said request by the affected families, which is not unusual in this jurisdiction, was properly addressed to the Attorney General and was made through the Alkalo of the Village.
The request is still under consideration by the Attorney General, and the Office of the President was only consulted for its views on the request in light of the fact that the Faraba Banta incident on 18 June 2018 was of such national tragedy and importance that it warranted the establishment by His Excellency, the President, of a Commission of Inquiry under Section 200 of the 1997 Constitution.
In this regard, the Office of the Attorney General affirms that the Office of the President did not, and has never attempted to, interfere with the exercise of this discretion, and therefore considers the recent press release from the Office of the President as an unfortunate choice of words.
The Office of the Attorney General reassures the general public that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is vested exclusively in the Attorney General which he executes mainly through the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Police. This discretion is exercised with due consideration to several factors including the public interest, and the wishes of the victims’ families.
Banjul 9 January, 2019