United States Ambassador to The Gambia.
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
This is my first occasion of having to address a letter to you concerning the political situation in The Gambia. Normally, my first letter would have been about the deplorable human right condition under the regime of Yaya Jammeh, if it weren’t for the extraordinary developments brought about by last week’s local government elections in which Independent candidates scored impressive victories against, what can only be termed as, the reigning APRC.
These victories did not only lead to the unseating of the incumbent Mayor of Banjul by the Independent candidate Mr. Abdoulie Bah, winning 7 of the 9 Wards in Banjul, but the Independents also made sizable inroads in numerous Area Councils. including Basse, The Niumis and parts of the Kombos. These victories by the Independent candidates came at great risk to their persons, their families and supporters with threats of many forms and hue, including jail time. Their efforts and determination to exercise their democratic rights must not go in vain. America must stand with them to ensure these gains are not eroded, or out-right forfeited by deliberate and obstructionist acts of political and legal intimidation.
We have seen this movie before when another Independent candidate in the name of Pa Sallah Jeng won a clear mandate from the people of Banjul as their Mayor only to be hounded out of office with bogus charges that amounted to nothing more than political intimidatin. The opposition parties failed him by not coalescing in defense of him against the false charges leveled by Jammeh and his regime – charges which were later found to be unfounded. The former Mayor now lives in exile in the United States. The donor community also failed the people of Banjul for not speaking out against such intimidation tactics that effectively nullified the verdict of the voters of Banjul.
America and the donor community must not sit on the sidelines again and watch Mayor-elect Abdoulie Bah and all those Independent candidates forfeit their legitimate mandate derived from the people who elected them. All elected officials regardless of party affiliation must be allowed to govern unhindered by Jammeh or his agents. The people of Banjul and the other Area Councils have spoken and the verdict must be respected. This must be made very clear and explicit to Jammeh and his government.
Finally, Mr. Ambassador, I would be remiss in my responsibilities as a democrat and a promoter of the rule of law if, in conclusion, I do not make a special appeal to the government, through your good offices, for the release of Imam Baba Leigh who has been in the custody for over two months. There are conflicting but worrying reports nonetheless about his safety. However, I hope he is safe and sound and he’s being treated humanely. The Imam should to be released to his family and without further delay. If he has broken any laws, he should be charged and brought before a court of law. He cannot be held incommunicado and deny access to legal representation in accordance with Gambian law.
cc Hon. John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State
cc. Mr. Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
cc. Editor, The GambiaEcho
cc. Editor, Maafanta
cc. Editor. FreedomNewsPaper
cc. Editor, Gainako
cc. Editor, HelloGambia