By Sanna Camara
Civil society organisations in Senegal have convened a press conference to lament the gag order in force in neighbouring Gambia as the clock ticks closer to presidential elections the small West African enclave.
The timing of the conference was deliberate as July 22nd 2016 marked 22 years of dictatorship in The Gambia. Rights groups, including Article 19 West Africa office, Amnesty Senegal and RADHOH used the opportunity to draw attention to the climate of impunity and repression taking place in their neignbour’s backyard.
“…recent cases in the report include death in custody in February 2016 of Sheriff Dibba, a union leader, the arrest in 2015 and the enforced disappearance of Imam Sawaneh after he submitted a petition to the president. The arrest and trial of journalist Alhagie Ceesay, a freelance journalist, for sharing a photo on Whatsapp,” said Khady Gueye, Article 19 program officer on Gambia.
On 29th May this year, President Jammeh declared in a Jeune Afrique interview, that “it is very common for people to die in custody or during interrogations. Here one person died and they want an investigation….”, referring to the death in custody of opposition activist Solo Sandeng and calls by the UN, bilateral and multilateral partners, rights groups and civil society groups for a through investigations. Calls he vehemently ignored till date.
That incident has set in motion other chain of events, including the “brutal crackdown”, arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader and the top executive members of the United Democratic Party and supporters for peaceful protests demanding the release of Solo Sandeng and group.
Seydi Gassama, Director of Amnesty Senegal called on Gambian government to expand political space and allow free participation of all parties in a credible electoral system free from state manipulation. Gassama also called for the release from prison opposition leader and his compatriots, vowing that they will continue to campaign for his release.