Wednesday 9.10.2019 in Latest Developments in Gambia Country Page
On 24th July 2019, a protest erupted at Serrekunda Market following the death of a vendor, Ousman Darboe, following what was perceived by protesters as due to police brutality. According to media reports, more than a thousand people gathered, with banners saying 'No to police brutality'. The protest turned violent, with protesters reportedly throwing stones at the deployed Police Intervention Unit (PIU), who responded with tear gas to disperse the protesters. The house belonging to the head of the police Anti-Crime Unit was reportedly burned down by angry protesters. A total of 37 people were arrested, including rapper Killa Ace, and were charged on 8 counts, including arson, rioting and unlawful assembly. On 10th September 2019, the prosecution withdrew the charges against 30 of those arrested. The High Court in Banjul released the other seven on bail on 12th September.
On the same day of the Serrekunda Market protest, hundreds protested for better service delivery from the local council, Brikama Area Council (BAC), which was met with tear gas fired by anti-riot police. At least 28 people were reportedly hospitalised, the majority due to the inhalation of tear gas.
On 4th July 2019, more than a hundred people marched in Banjul in protest against sexual violence against women. The protest followed revelations by Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International in June 2019, with at least three women accusing former President Yahya Jammeh of rape and sexual assault between 2013 and 2015 when he was in office. Protesters displayed placards with 'No means no' and 'Let's Break the Silence'. After one of the women, Fatou Toufah Jallow, publicly spoke out, other women started speaking out about sexual harassment on social media, followed by the protest.
On 10th May 2019, 15 people were arrested during a peaceful protest calling on President Adama Barrow to uphold the promise of the Coalition of Opposition Parties, led by Barrow, and made during the election campaign, to stay in power for a transitional period of only three years that would end in December 2019. The 15, who were arrested at Senegambia were charged with obstructing the Public Order Act by breaching the peace, according to Police spokesperson Lamin Njie. They were reportedly released on bail.
The MFWA condemns the arrest and detention of peaceful protesters in The Gambia, and call for their immediate and unconditional release.https://t.co/5iBlJg2ejK@gmpressunion @IFEX @AFEXafrica @gijnAfrica— Media Foundation for West Africa (@TheMFWA) May 22, 2019
Attack on journalists
On 8th July 2019, supporters of the Alliance for Patriotic, Reorientation and Construction (APRC), the political party of former president Yahya Jammeh,physically attacked two journalists in front of the High Court in Banjul. The two journalists - Modou Saidy of media outlet Fatu Network and Romain Chanson of Radio France International (RFI) - were filming the gathering of APRC supporters in front of the court who were there in support of former Minister of Local Government and Lands Yankuba Touray who is charged with the murder of former Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay in 1995. The Gambia Press Union condemned the attack, and said that police were not giving protection to journalists and failed to properly investigate seven other attacks on journalists.
Plans for State Intelligence Services screening of journalists to the Presidency scrapped
In March 2019, journalists who applied for accreditation to State House were notified by officials that they would be called by the State Intelligence Services (SIS), formerly the National Intelligence Service (NIS), an institution known for its torture and abuse of journalists and dissidents under President Yayha Jammeh. Prior to this, the policy document 'Policy on Media Access to State House' was distributed to media outlets by the Press and Public Relations Department at the Presidency, that does not mention any additional screening by SIS, according to local media. After an outcry from journalists and media organisations, and following a meeting with the Gambia Press Union, the of Press and Public Relations announced the cancellation of the new screening process.
Sheriff Bojang Jr of the Gambia Press Union said:
"It’s in the interest of both parties that the plan to screen journalists in this manner is abandoned. Forcing journalists to appear before a panel of NIA/SIS agents would have been a very bad idea.”
Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC): murder journalist Deyda Hydara
On 22nd July 2019, army officer Lt. Malick Jatta confessed that he, together with two others, shot and killed journalist Deyda Hydara on 16th December 2004, on the direct orders of former President Yahya Jammeh. The three were members of an unofficial elite hit squad known as 'the Junglers'. The three confessed to other extra-judicial killings on the orders of Jammeh. Two weeks after their appearance at the TRRC they were released, causing outrage. The Minister of Justice said that the release was to encourage other perpetrators of human rights violations to testify.