It is now one week today when The Gambia Government through its security agents descended on peaceful, unarmed protesters comprising mainly youths that were out in the streets on Thursday April 14 demanding electoral reform ahead of the 2016 general elections.
The state security agents armed with batons, teargas and AK47 guns seriously manhandled the protesters before whisking them away to an unknown destination. Although the exact number of arrests made at the protest site is still being compiled, sources have told The Fatu Network over 50 people were arrested.
All those arrested according to our sources were brutally tortured in groups of four at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Apparently, the head of the peaceful protest Solo Sandeng who at the time of his arrest was also the National Organizing Secretary of the UDP was so brutally tortured that he eventually died in the hands of his torturers. The government has still refused to acknowledge that he died.
After two days of frantic efforts by the leadership of the UDP in demanding answers from the authorities without success, the party leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe led a hand full of party stalwarts towards the police station which arrested Mr Sandeng.
But no sooner had they gone a few meters, than the security forces started descending on them. They were doused with teargas and beaten with batons before they were thrown into the back of waiting military trucks. Some of the marchers especially the elderly were wounded.
Events continue to move fast amid a high tempo likely to degenerate into violence. The European Union and other diplomatic missions accredited to Banjul have been making subtle trips on both the government and the house of the UDP leader where the party’s executive have assembled for the past five days. The diplomats have been pushing for a solution to the current crisis.
Meanwhile Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and some members of his executive are still held in communicado detention amid reports that some of the detainees especially the elderly have been already released.
Reports coming from Banjul also say that the authorities are planning to take Lawyer Darboe and his executive to court where they are likely going to be charged under the Gambia’s Public Order Act which forbids anyone to organize certain category of procession without a permit from the police.
Meanwhile, Gambians in different parts of the world came out in their large numbers to protest against what they called the brutal crackdown on innocent, peaceful marchers. They also demanded that the international community do more to stand in solidarity with the Gambian people who they say have suffered two decades of brutality under Yahya Jammeh who has been ruling the country with an iron fist.
The UDP has also released a statement insisting a broad range of demands as shown below in the statement:
Petition On The Continued Illegal Detention Of The Executive Members Of The United Democratic Party (UDP) and The Death Of Solo Sandeng While Under State Custody
The leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and five members of his executive remain in state custody after being picked up by members of the Gambian security forces on Saturday 16th April 2016 as they embarked on a peaceful march. What precipitated their peaceful march was the arrest two days earlier of about 25 youth activists drawn from across the political spectrum who gathered to demand comprehensive electoral reform in the run up to the December 2016 elections. They have been kept in communicado detention since and their conditions are still unknown. They are denied family access and legal representation in total violation of the constitution of The Gambia.
Seven of those arrested were youth members of the UDP executive. Credible reports are that they were brutally tortured leading to the death under custody of the UDP National Mobilizing Secretary, Mr Solo Sandeng. Three other female youth executive members of the UDP (Ms Fatoumata Jawara, Ms Nokoi Njie and Ms Fatou Camara) remain in critical conditions following two days of sustained brutal torture and other forms of inhumane treatment.
The state has since expanded its brutal crackdown to include the systematic rounding up of dozens of supporters and community leaders of the United Democratic Party. The exact number of the abductees remains unknown but so far the UDP has confirmed that 50 people are held in different detention centers.
1. The UDP urgently demands the unconditional and immediate release of all political prisoners.
2. We demand The Gambia Government fully account for Mr Solo Sandeng and all of his colleagues he was detained with.
3. We also demand a full, thorough and a credible, independent investigation into the conduct of state security agents that brutally assaulted and detained peaceful, unarmed citizens who were exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
4. We insist that the electoral reform demands that were put forward by the group of six opposition political parties by fully complied with before any elections can be held.
5. We call on the international community to take note of the existential threats The Gambia Government poses to its people.
Consequently, we urge the international community, especially the regional bloc, ECOWAS to take appropriate steps to mitigate the very significant dangers the regime poses to its people.