Gambia Democracy Fund is joining the many voices of Gambians at home and abroad to condemn, in the strongest terms, the latest miscarriage of justice perpetrated by President Yahya Jammeh against the leader of United Democratic Party (UDP), Mr Ousainou Darboe. The President and his hired judicial henchmen have not only violated the rights of Mr. Darboe, but his heinous acts are a threat to the entire Gambian population.
Though saddened and disappointed by this verdict, we are not surprised by the blatant disregard for the rights of the people continuously shown by this regime.
The 14th of April 2016 started as an ordinary day in The Gambia. A large number of well-meaning citizens of our country gathered in the streets in peaceful protest. Their main objective for this gathering, was to demand common changes to the electoral laws in order to achieve a fairer political process.
Their peaceful action did not stop the government from confronting them with overwhelming force, and arresting a good number of the peaceful protesters. Among those arrested was the National Mobilizing Secretary of UDP Mr Solo Sandeng. It was not long before word reached Mr Ousainou Darboe and the leadership of the UDP that Mr Solo Sandeng was killed in the custody of the state security forces.
On the 16th of April 2016, the leadership of the UDP led by Mr Darboe staged a protest march demanding to see Mr Solo Sandeng “dead or alive”. The state once again responded with the least amount of sensitivity by arresting Mr Darboe and the his team, including a young mother and her infant. Their ordeal while in state custody is well documented by the different online media sites.
The Gambian people cannot be more proud of the dignified manner in which Mr Darboe and the other accused conducted themselves throughout the shameful court proceedings that followed their arrests. The presiding judge, Justice E.O Ottaba was replaced after his on air characterization of the case against the UDP leadership as an embarrasement. He confirmed what we already knew, albeit unknowingly.
Darboe and co were refused their right to attorney-client confidetiality when the replacement judge, Justice Eunice O. Dada refused to grant their request to remove state security agents from their private meetings. These and many other instances of partiality in the justice system, was what prompted the defense’s decision to cease cooperating and let the Judge fulfill her obligations to her master, Mr Yahya Jammeh. She sentenced Mr Darboe to three years in prison.
Three years may seem like a long time, but our country has been a prison for the past twenty two years, so the march towards freedom continues. Though the physical barriers of the prison walls may keep us apart, our collective thirst for freedom gives us a bond that cannot be broken by any amount of brutality inflicted by any dictator.
This fight began long ago, and we have lost many of our fine brothers and sisters along the way. This fuels our determination to fight on.
As a collective Gambian people, we cannot rest until the rule of law is restored. We promise to fight on until the last secret prison is dismantled, and every missing brother and sister is accounted for. We shall fight on until the last remnant of this dictatorship is made history.
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Gambia Democracy Fund