By Ebrima G. Sankareh, Editor-in-Chief
Birmingham, UK—The Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party-UDP of veteran Banjul barrister, Ousainou Darboe, has confirmed in a press statement signed by its National President, Hon. Dembo Bojang (a.k.a Dembo By Force), the tragic death of THREE young Executive members following brutal torture unleashed by Gambia’s spineless security forces who descended on a crowd of peaceful demonstrators Thursday afternoon in Serekunda, demanding serious electoral reforms as the mini-West African state readies for general elections in December. In the run up to this much-anticipated elections, President Yaya Jammeh in concert with his lieutenants at Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission—that never was as and never will be independent, doctored the electoral rules making it virtually impossible for credible, free and fair elections to take place. It was against this backdrop, that a few hundred UDP supporters and other concerned citizens, peacefully took to the streets to agitate for open and fairer electoral laws.
Although the release did not name names, The Gambia Echo can confirm that the Party’s National Organizing Secretary, Mr. Solo Sandeng, 55, died in the hands of State security agents following trauma to the head and several broken ribs. As we went to press, Fatoumata Jawara (Female Youth President) and Fatou Camara, (Constituency Women’s Leader), reportedly succumbed to their torture inflicted wounds on Thursday but we could not independently verify if Jawara and Camara are the duo among the trio the UDP statement anonymously alludes to. What is absolutely clear is that several dozen UDP supporters remain in custody in various unspecified locations and based on the veracity of our unimpeachable sources within corridors of state power, most of them are traumatized and profusely bleeding with life threatening injuries.
Earlier this afternoon, UDP leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, hurriedly organized a press conference to brief the media and denounce the heavy-handedness with which over two dozen of his supporters were treated Thursday and to forcefully ask for their immediate and unconditional release since peaceful demonstrations are constitutionally sacrosanct.
At the conclusion of the briefing, Lawyer Darbo flanked by senior party elite, began a peaceful march for the immediate release of his supporters in the wake of Thursday’s crackdown that speaks of atavistic barbarity. According to eyewitnesses, no sooner had the peaceful procession of Darboe and followers began, than the marauding maniacs once again descended on the scene beating innocent civilians and firing life bullets on women and old men. They quickly identified Mr. Darboe and his top lieutenants, thrown them in security vehicles and drove at breakneck speed and within minutes, the vehicles moving in different directions had melted away; an all too familiar pattern ever since Yaya Jammeh seized power on July 22, 1994.
Significantly, since the formation of the UDP, numerous elements of the party have been brutally beaten, tortured and while many are exiled, so many too have disappeared into oblivion, both literarily and figuratively and for two decades now, its urbane leader, a strict constitutionalist, a political dove if you like, has consistently maintained that his followers respect the Constitution to the letter and desist from violent means; a mantra that some hardliners have always mocked and ascribed to over simplification of the complex political calculus at hand. To so many Gambians, Yaya Jammeh personifies evil and his regime hangs over their heads like the idiomatic sword of damocles that portends a looming catastrophe over this once innocent state.
Naturally, Mr. Darboe having witnessed numerous times his supporters being hunted and hounded like prey could no longer sit down and allow Yaya Jammeh’s security forces with clownish bravado, unleash mayhem on his peaceful followers. This is an inevitability of history and times have changed and changed significantly. With the internet revolution and its attendant new realms of journalism (blogs and social media combined), Mr. Jammeh’s desperadoes while still brutal, are being recorded and pictured for posterity and sooner or later, they too will have their day in court.
For now though, Mr. Ousainou Darboe and his senior party leadership languish in custody, in unknown locations within The Gambia and consistent with Yaya Jammeh’s viciousness and a tyrannical regime notorious for its human butchery and harrowing authoritarianism, the international community must act now with the requisite pressure on the megalomaniac who vows to rule Gambia for eternity so these people could see the light of day. Anytime wasted is a life wasted for these rogues in military outfits are merciless and are clueless what international norms are all about. Majority of them are school dropouts, some probably never attended formal school; and their only qualifications, despite the grandeur and ranks, is their ethnicity and or spineless sycophancy, nothing more nothing less.