Edward Singhatey, the Gambian-born Vice President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has modulated his position on the current political situation in The Gambia by failing to condemn outright the brutal action by the Government against the opposition.

With global condemnation of President Yahya Jammeh’s government repressive regime against the people and more recently the opposition, Singhatey, instead of denouncing the act called for dialogue, greater tolerance, and understanding among the Gambian people saying the country is a small community from one big family.

The former member of the junta that brought Jammeh to power in a 1994 coup and Gambia’s former Vice President during the transition told the West Africa Democracy Radio in Dakar during an interview that The Gambia like every other nation in West Africa has its own internal political problems “but at the end of the day, no matter what happened, the people are one family.”

Tortured to death.

Since April 14, the political tension in The Gambia had risen following the arrest of a dozen opposition members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) who were merely protesting in demand for justice and electoral reforms.  They were rounded up by police and one of them named Solo Sandeng was reportedly tortured to death in state custody while others suffered severe pains and still under critical conditions.

The death of Sandeng led to another protest on April 16th, led by the leader of the party Ousainou Darboe and party executive demanding the release of Solo Sandeng, dead or alive and others ‘illegally’ detained. They were equally rounded up by police and are all currently standing trials and remanded at the State Central prison of Mile II.

Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate

The Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, Chapter 4, Section 25, Sub-Section 1(D) states that "Every person shall have the right to freedom of assembly and demonstrate peaceably and without arms."

Despite international condemnations of the government’s brutality against the opposition, the Ecowas Vice President who was widely expected to denounce the government actions but instead said there is no nation on the African continent which does not have its own internal issues.

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He said all the countries that are said to be democratic nations still have some differences in their political arena like The Gambia but solve it amicably than violence and uprising.

Several killings.

A one-time member of the Jammeh inner circle with accusations of several killings during his time in the regime, Singhatey to the surprise of the international community dodged away from admitting that there is no democracy in The Gambia with particular emphasis on the lack of freedom of expression, association, media freedom etc. He said no democracy is perfect.

“I must say that there is democracy in The Gambia where everyone is entitled to his or her opinion,” he said, insisting that the sub-regional bloc cannot use any forceful position at this stage against The Gambia but call for dialogue and tolerance among the people.

Singhatey says there is judicial independence

Dilating on the independence of the judiciary in The Gambia, Singhatey, a former member of the junta said judges in The Gambia always say they are independent and they take their own decisions.

He neither denied nor admits the independence of the judiciary in The Gambia adding, he has never been a witness to anything on the contrary to what the judges said during his entire career as a legal practitioner.

The trial of the opposition members heightens political tension in The Gambia as many described it as politically motivated. Last week, the trial judge in the case, Justice Ottaba resigned from presiding over the case following a leak conversation he had with a Gambian journalist in the US where he described the trial as embarrassing, saying the case should be struck out. The case also showed the sacking of former Solicitor General Cherno Marena.