By Alhagie Jobe
The United Nations has once again reiterate its call on the Gambia government to conduct an independent investigation to shed light on the events of April 14 and 16, including allegations of torture and deaths of detainees while in State custody.
The call was made on Tuesday before the UN Security Council by Muhamed Ibn Chambers, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel during the presentation of the Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS). The report covers the period from 1 January to 30 June 2016 and provides an overview of developments and trends in The Gambia and other West African nations and the Sahel. It also outlines the activities of UNOWAS and the progress made in the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel.
On April 14th, opposition members demanding electoral reforms were arrested and detained. One of them, Solo Sandeng was tortured to death which prompted the party leader and executive to get to the streets peacefully on April 16th, demanding Sandeng’s body be produced, dead or alive. They were also rounded up by police and currently detained at the state Central Prison of Mile II undergoing trial.
Ibn Chambers also urged the government of The Gambia to follow due process in the prosecution of those detained. “I encourage the Gambian authorities to allow their citizens to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as enshrined in the country’s Constitution” Chambers noted adding “I am encouraged by the resumption of political dialogue through the reactivated inter-party committee and urge the government to create a conducive environment that will allow for peaceful, credible and transparent elections in December.
He then reported that the Independent Electoral Commission has conducted a supplementary voter registration exercise from 14 January to 12 March followed by a protest on 14 and 16 April, by members of the opposition calling for electoral reforms and were violently suppressed by police and security forces.
“Several people, including the leader of the opposition United Democratic Party, Ousainou Darboe, were detained. There were subsequent reports that some detainees, who have not been seen since the time of their arrest are been killed in State custody. To address these developments and other contentious issues relating to the elections, an inter-party committee held its first meeting on 20 April, after having been dormant for 10 years. Representatives of the United Nations, the European Union and the United States of America were present as observers. At the meeting, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to establish an ad hoc committee for dialogue, with the participation of civil society and security authorities, to address political tensions” he reported to the 7735th meeting of the UN Security Council.
The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWA) is headed by Muhamed Ibn Chambers. The UN Security Council on 23rd December 2013, extended the mandate of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA) to until 31 December 2016 and requested the UN Secretary General to submit a report every six months on the implementation of its mandate. Following the UN Chief’s letter to the Council dated 14 January 2016 on the strategic review of the Office of his Special Envoy for the Sahel, the Council requested him, on 28 January 2016, to proceed with the merger of the two offices into the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and asked him to be providing updates on the implementation of the mandate of UNOWAS.