DUGA wholeheartedly welcomes the release of detainees from Gambian prisons and detention centers. Despite the fact that many are innocent and committed no offense to warrant detention, we celebrate with them and their family members on their reunions, and escape from the deplorable conditions they were subjected to while in custody.
We hope that this is just the first step towards building a nation where our leaders not only exercise the discretionary prerogative of mercy, but also respect and adhere to constitutionally entrenched provisions that guarantee that the rights of those it protects are never abrogated.
As members of the “pardoned” diaspora, DUGA completely rejects Jammeh’s pardon and the condition of silence attached to it, we remain unflinching in our stance that exercising our inalienable rights, and speaking out against injustice is nothing we are to be pardoned for. The greatest democracies in this world are imperfect, and as long as the imperfections exist, so will civil society organizations like DUGA. Therefore, DUGA’s existence will not run parallel to Jammeh’s rule, but outlive it.
As we take stock of this latest development, our celebration is tempered by the acknowledgment that many still remain unaccounted for, and justice has been denied in many other cases. If Jammeh is truly sincere about “turning a page” then he must adhere to standards and norms that govern democracy. To show good faith, and alleviate our skepticism Jammeh must act immediately on the following demands:
- An immediate end to all politically motivated arrests and persecutions; end to all illegal arrests, indefinite detentions
- Adherence to 72hr detention rule stipulated in the constitution
- An immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.
- End all torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment
- Immediate end to executive interference in Judiciary, guarantee of fair trials by an independent and impartial judiciary that fundamental rights guaranteed by constitution
- An immediate and unconditional reopening of all media houses; a guarantee to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, free media and unfettered access to information without interference
- Freedom on assembly and association, freedom of religion, political ideology
- Rescinding of unconstitutional, arbitrary and unilateral declarations by president translated as law without challenge; end to the continued abrogation of the constitution.
- Guarantee free and fair elections and enfranchisement of all citizens to determine their governance, whether directly or indirectly
- Set up independent commission to investigate all extra judicial killings and disappearances
- Stop interference in the IEC, work with all stakeholder to bring forth meaningful and inclusive electoral reforms and term limits (retroactive)
- Set up independent commission to compensate governments victims, and comply with regional body rulings on violations against citizens
- Set up commission of inquiry to audit government finances on financial impropriety
- International bodies and organizations full access to public institutions, prisons, hospital etc. allow institutions (media, civil society, and international organizations) to operate unhindered inside the country
- End interference in privacy, threats, intimidation and surveillance, disband militia
- Guarantee equal protection under the law by ensuring the dignity, entitled rights and freedoms stipulated in constitution, regardless of political, religious or ethnic status for all citizens.
- Set up timeline and framework for transition and relinquishing of power.
Yahya Jammeh must let his deeds speak for themselves, rather than parading victims of his regime on television in what was just another attempt at validation and self-aggrandizement. This display does not encourage confidence that intentions were purely benevolent, but done for the sake of political expediency. Jammeh has a lot more to answer to beyond the ceremonial release of unjustly imprisoned Gambians. To bring closure to the past 21 years of tyranny, all the atrocities of the Jammeh regime must be brought to scrutiny in order to win any consideration for his recent actions. We hope Jammeh observes a moment of introspection, make serious reforms in his manner of governance by acting immediately on the stated demands, if he stands any chance of salvaging what remains of his legacy.