By Mustapha Jallow and Muhammed Sailu Bah
Many elderly and young men and women, numbering dozens, were physically beaten up with rubber batons and gun butts and then arrested by armed security forces who were dispatched to stop the procession of the members of the United Democratic Party (UDP) on Kairaba Avenue around noon on Saturday, 16 April, 2016.
The procession, which involved UDP executive members, including Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, the party leader, and militants, was said to be en route to the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) headquarters at Kanifing to demand for the Mr. Ebrima Solo Sandeng, who was said to have died in custody following his arrest on Thursday, 14 April 2016 as well as the release of the others.
However, several trucks loaded with security personnel armed with riot gears were dispatched to scene to stop the marchers from proceeding to their destination. They were stopped near the main Kairaba Avenue-Latrikunda Yiring’anya junction and this resulted in a serious clash as the security forces started beating the marchers and firing tear gas on them. Many of the protesters, some put in handcuffs, were then arrested and thrown into the waiting vehicles that took them away.
While near the residence of the UDP leader where the procession commenced on the same road, it was observed that some soldiers and PIU personnel and also came there and picked up seven elderly men who were standing outside and forcibly put them into a military truck which whisked them away.
Immediately following the breaking up of the procession, the security forces were out and about forcing everyone they meet or see around the area to move away.
A young lady who was standing nearby talking on her phone was attacked by a soldier who ordered her to stop the communication and that when she refused the security personnel slapped her on the face. The armed soldier wanted to continue with the physical assault but was restrained by another soldier.
Another young man coming out of a nearby restaurant was equally assaulted when he was seen talking on his phone which they seized from him. He was seriously beaten before being handed over to the police who took him away.
A similar incident occurred when the same soldiers attempted to pull out a lady from a moving commercial van heading towards Bakau. Apparently, the lady refused to stop her phone conversation or give them her mobile phone. She too was saved by a senior ranked soldier who intervened.
Visiting the police station at the headquarters in Banjul to enquire about the whereabouts of the marchers after the incident, the station officer (SO) who was met there told the Foroyaa reporter that he was not aware of any arrests.
The Public Relation Officer (PRO) of the Gambia Police Force, ASP Lamin Njie, was also contacted on his phone on several occasions but was unreachable.
Officials at both the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul and the Serekunda General Hospital have told these reporters that cases relating to the Thursday afternoon or Saturday morning incidents were not admitted or reported there up to the time of going to press.