By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambian President, Adama Barrow, singled out Gambian Human Rights Activist Madi Jobarteh, journalists and civil society advocates, during his Eid address to Banjul Muslim Elders on Monday 2nd May 2022. The speech delivered a day before World Press Freedom Day, naturally resulted in total condemnation from the Gambia Press Union and civil society advocates in and outside of the country.
From the two-hour, two-minute mark President Adama Barrow, speaking in Wollof, stated that Madi Jobarteh is amongst the people who wish to cause chaos in the country. “There are those that are prepared to oppose and criticise this government and bring chaos in this country. One of those is Madi Jobarteh. He is among those that want to set this country ablaze. He is a person that wants to bring chaos in this country and everyone should take note of that” said President Adama Barrow.
The president went on to convey to the Banjul Muslim Elders, his disdain for Mr Jobarteh: “I have never stood on a platform to speak about him. He says he is part of Civil Society. But Civil Society that is only focused on bringing chaos in this country. Anytime he’s on a platform he’s spreading chaos in the country and all the journalists are giving him a platform”.
The President did not only stop at condemning journalists for giving the Human Rights Advocate a platform he opined that “anybody helping him is not helping the country. I will say that personally. Whoever is helping him is not helping the country”.
Even more worrying, is what appeared to be a threat to take action against Madi Jobarteh. President Barrow said that his “government will have to do something about him. We must look into him very closely because the country cannot continue like this. We cannot watch somebody bring chaos in the country and do nothing about it. That won’t continue”.
*Applause from Audience*
It must be noted that Madi Jobarteh has recently been sent a letter from the lawyers of the Minister of Lands Musa Drammeh. According to the contents of the letter, Madi Jobarteh is to “provide an apology and a declaration that the allegations referred to are false and defamatory and cause such apology and declaration to be published in the social media site on which your posting was made”. The letter demands that Mr Jobarteh apologises within seven days and removes his postings or face defamation charges, an injunction from publishing future statements and other legal fees. The letter dated Monday 25th April 2022 was issued a week before President Barrow’s statements.
President Barrow concluded this segment of his speech by turning his attention to other activities which he says are not in line with the law. “There are a lot of things that people are doing that are not correct and not in line with the law. But President follows the law and others should follow the law”, he said.
During the President’s speech, he made no reference to Madi Jobarteh’s inciteful speech to substantiate his claims. It is therefore dangerous for the President to condemn a citizen in such a threatening manner invoking the government against them on such an important day like Eid. Even more concerning is the fact that religious leaders in attendance did not rectify the President to consider the significance of the occasion and the danger of the President’s statement on what should be a peaceful and unifying day.
But this is not the first time that President barrow has threatened to curtail freedom of expression in The Gambia. He threatened to crackdown on freedom of expression and protest after the 4th December 2021 Presidential Elections. Speaking to the Serer Community from Jeshwang Ndangan in an event televised live on EyeAfrica TV, President Barrow spoke in Wollof when he said “since when I took power in 2017 still there are some people who are politicking every day. Every day they are drumming and blocking the roads. Every day they are on social media and every day they are insulting people. This time on the 4th of December if we win that will end in the Gambia here”.
President Barrow explained how far he planned to go when he said “after that, we will give instructions to Inspector General of Police anybody who wants a permit will not be given one”. Since the Presidential Elections, there has been a series of intolerance for freedom of expression and assembly in the country, as permits have been denied to citizens applying for rights to be respected and allowed for lawful assembly in the country. Civil society organisation Gambia Participates was refused a protest permit in February 2022 to host a solidarity march for the Anti-Corruption Bill currently awaiting National Assembly approval.
Madi Jobarteh is a human rights advocate who opposed the Yahya Jammeh regime and has continued to advocate for transitional justice and reforms processes in the ‘new’ Gambia. Mr Jobarteh worked for The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO) for 10 years and now works for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD).
Watch the entire speech from the link below and the relevant section from the 2hr 2mins 30secs mark.