Three Years Jotna protest: 137 arrested, two radio stations shut down, protest movement banned

Peaceful Assembly

Crackdown on protest calling president Barrow to step down

A protest on 26th January 2020, organised by the movement Three Years Jotna (Jotna means 'enough' in Wolof) in Banjul was cracked down, with at least 137 protesters arrested, dozens injured and two radio stations suspended (see also under Expression). The protest, to demand that president Adama Barrow step down, reportedly started peacefully but turned violent, with the eruption of clashes between protesters and security officers. Following the protest, authorities banned the Three Years Jotna movement, calling it a 'subversive, violent and illegal movement' (see under Association). According to news reports, over a hundred protesters were released on bail.

The Three Years Jotna movement previously staged protests on 16th December 2019, when protesters handed over a petition to a government representative. The movement has been calling for president Adama Barrow to uphold his promise made during the election campaign in 2016, to stay in power for a transitional period of only three years that ended in December 2019. President Barrow has said he will stay in power for his full constitutional five-year term.

In response to the protest of 26th January 2020, Marta Colomer of Amnesty International commented:

“Yesterday’s crackdown on protesters had alarming echoes of Gambia’s brutal past. There have been some significant improvements in the country’s human rights record since President Adama Barrow came to power, but the use of excessive force by security forces to disperse protesters risks fuelling tensions and steering Gambia back to the dark days of repression."

Protest calling for justice for past human rights abuses

On 25th January 2020, hundreds of protesters gathered in Banjul to demand justice for the human rights abuses perpetrated under Yahya Jammeh's 22-year rule, who was ousted in January 2017 and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea. Protesters also demanded a ban on the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party (APRC), the former political party of Jammeh.

Previously on 16th January 2020, thousands of APRC supporters marched in Sukuta on the outskirts of Banjul to demand Jammeh's right to return to the Gambia. The protest followed the release of an audio in which Jammeh reportedly insists on returning to the Gambia. 


Three Years Jotna movement banned

Following the crackdown on the anti-government protest on 26th January 2020, the government announced, in a press statement, a ban on the Three Years Jotna movement, calling it a 'subversive, violent and illegal movement'. It further warned of severe consequences for 'any person, radio station, business or group that chooses to do business with Operation Three Years Jotna and/or promotes their agenda'. 


Three Years Jotna protest: arrests of journalists, closure of two radio stations

During the course of the Three Years Jotna protest on 26th January 2020 (see above), several journalists were attacked, four journalists were arrested and two radio stations shut, raising fears of serious setbacks to the respect of human rights in the country.

Police officers stormed the offices of radio station Home Digital FM, arrested its station manager and owner, Pa Modou Bojang, and ordered the radio station to stop broadcasting on 26th January 2020. Another radio station, King FM, was shut down, while three people - Gibbi Jallow, Ebrima Jallow and Madiou Jallow - were arrested. The radio stations are accused by authorities of 'allowing their media to be used as platforms for inciting violence, fear-mongering and live broadcasts urging Gambians to join Jotna demonstrators, all calculated to threaten the security and safety of the Gambia'. The radio stations remain suspended. According to media reports, the journalists were charged with incitement to violence, but were released on bail on 28th January 2020.

Journalist Sankulleh Janko of West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR) was reportedly physically attacked by a group of protesters while covering the protest. Prior to the protest on 25th January 2020, authorities reportedly denied accreditation to Nicolas Haque, a correspondent for Al Jazeera.

Attacks on journalists

On 21st November 2019, three journalists who were covering president Adama Barrow's 'Meet the People Tour' were attacked by members of two pro-Barrow youth groups - Barrow Youth Movement and Barrow Fan Club, said Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). It concerns Ebrahim Jambang of The Gambia Talent Promotion Media, Sally Jobe of Kerr Fatou and Landing Ceesay of Paradise FM. Cameras belonging to Jambang and Ceesay were reportedly destroyed, while Sally Jobe said she received punches to her chest.