By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT.
It’s been eight days since Gambian Opposition, United Democratic Party (UDP) Executive Leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and co. were jailed for three years on July 20th and 21st. They were found guilty of six charges; unlawful assembly, riot, riotously interfering with vehicles, conspiracy to commit felony, holding procession without permit and disobeying orders to disperse. Some of the charges are arguably in contravention to International Human Rights standards. The day after the second set of protesters were sentenced marked the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 coup d’etat lead by Gambian Dictator, Yahya Jammeh. His double conviction of the opposition is surely he’s boldest statement so far of his intention to shackle the opposition in the run-up to the December 2016 Presidential Elections as he seeks to cement his fifth term in office.
This article aims to canvas the reaction of the International Community on the recent judgement of the UDP leadership in the buildup to the Presidential Election in December 2016. Are the International Community doing enough to ensure that The Gambia remains a stable country especially in a critical year of political upheaval? What can be seen is that the African countries have once again decided to remain silent about the injustices taking place in the continent while the United State and the United Kingdom continue to take a stand against the impunity being orchestrated in Africa.
UK Government Statement by Ambassador Colin Crorkin
“The British Government is concerned by the severity of the sentences in the case of the Gambian UDP United Democratic Party) leader, Ousainou Darboe, and his supporters. These sentences are disproportionate and not in line with internationally acceptable human rights standards.”
US Government Press Statement by John Kirby
The United States condemns the harsh sentences handed out to 30 people this week in The Gambia, including a U.S. citizen, for protesting peacefully. These sentences followed trials that raise legitimate questions about the degree to which they were fair and observed due process.
We are also deeply troubled by the reported torture of protesters and opposition figures and the death in custody of opposition leader Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
We call on the Government of The Gambia to immediately release all those 30 sentenced this week, as well as every protester arrested during demonstrations last spring. We call for the government to allow an independent investigation of allegations of torture and abuse.
As The Gambia prepares for national elections in December, we further call on the government to guarantee the constitutional rights of its people to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Dakar, Senegal; Amnesty International Statement by Director Stephen Cockburn
“The sentencing of senior opposition figures such as Ousainou Darboe is the latest in a continuous chain of violations committed against those who dare to speak out in Gambia. Imprisoning opposition leaders and their supporters for protesting peacefully not only flagrantly violates their human rights but is also likely to enflame an already tense situation.
With just five months before elections are due to be held, the Gambian authorities should take urgent measures to ensure that people can express themselves without fear of reprisals. If they do not, ECOWAS and the international community should not stand idly by.”
Dakar, Senegal; Article 19 Press Conference, Statement by Fatou Jagne
“The imprisonment of Ousainou Darboe and UDP members is a serious and deliberate violation of the right to protest and to freely participate to the electoral process,” said Fatou Jagne Senghor, Director of ARTICLE 19 West Africa.
“This sentence suggests that any hope of having a free, inclusive, and peaceful presidential election is misplaced. The detention and imprisonment of opposition party members is a crackdown on free expression and even further limits the space for dissent in a country which has silenced so many voices these past 22 years,” added Jagne Senghor.