UDP leader Ousainou Darboe and at least 18 others including former parliamentary Minority Leader Momodou Sanneh have been held liable by state prosecutors for inciting violence after peaceful protests on Thursday and Saturday were violently suppressed by Gambian paramilitary police.
They are been charged at the High Court in Banjul for unlawful assembly, riot, incitement of violence, riotously interfering with traffic, holding a procession without a license and disobeying an order to disperse from an unlawful procession. They have been committed to custody pending another bail hearing according to defense counsel, Antouman Gaye.
Security personnel warned to refrain from using excessive force
Gunshots were fired towards the protesters who were demanding to see a senior opposition politician Solo Sandeng. Sandeng was reportedly tortured to death after leading an anti-#Government protest last Thursday demanding electoral reform and the resignation of the country iron-fist ruler, Yahya Jammeh. The West African nation’s Attorney General Mama Fatima Singhateh told the African Union Human Rights Commission that the protesters assembled unlawfully and argued that the security forces tried to manage the situation.
Regional body ECOWAS has called on Banjul to ensure the freedom of expression and strict adherence to the rule of law and the principles of human rights. In a statement, it warned Gambian security forces to put up a republican comportment and refrain from the use of any form of excessive force while maintaining law and order.
“ECOWAS therefore calls on the political stakeholders including opposition members and civil society organizations to display a profound sense of civic responsibility and patriotism in the exercise of their civil rights to peaceful assembly,” the statement said.
UDP has had enough of the persecution
It is not the first time Ousainou Darboe and members of his United Democratic Party have been dragged to the court by Gambian authorities. Darboe, a human rights lawyer himself represented many of his party members pro-bono in court over prompt up charges over the past two decades. Analyst say the UDP party has had enough of the persecution. They agree that the video and pictorial evidences show armless protesters who were not resisting arrest and the only ones using force were the police.
Before heading to the streets, UDP leader Ousainou Darboe urged protesters not to carry any weapon or pick up sticks and stones.
"We are not going to be violent and I am advising you all to desist from using profanity. All we want is Solo – death or alive."
The Gambia’s laws allow for peaceful assembly and do not require a permit unless where a sound amplifying system is to be used. Freedom of assembly is guaranteed in the country’s constitution and supporters of President Jammeh exercise it without any interference; but his critics have been denied the same rights.