The Gambia: Time to respect the will of Gambians

Global civil society alliance CIVICUS urges Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to respect constitutional norms and the will of the Gambian people. As the 19 January deadline for the inauguration of incoming President Adama Barrow approaches, Gambian authorities are silencing independent media houses and arbitrarily arresting public spirited citizens calling on incumbent president Jammeh to hand over power in line with the results of the 1 December 2016 elections.

“The behaviour of President Yahya Jammeh is out of tune with the times,” said David Kode Senior Policy and Research Officer from CIVICUS. “For the last 21 years, his regime has used violence to shut down dissent. The current crackdown against the media and civil society is indicative of his regime’s past tactics.”

On 1 January 2017, three radio stations – Taranga FM, Hill Top Radio and Afri Radio were ordered to stop broadcasting by the National Intelligence Agency. On 9 January security agents stormed Paradise FM and called on the station to cease broadcasting to the public. The Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure subsequently sent a letter to all four radio stations informing them that their licenses have been revoked, without providing any justification.

Since 31 December 2016, intelligence agents have arrested and detained citizens wearing t-shirts bearing the logo of the movement – #GambiaHasDecided. The movement is leading calls on President Yahya Jammeh to respect the results of the 1 December 2016 elections and step down.  The targeting of the leaders of the movement and those perceived by the authorities to be associated with it has forced several Gambians to flee after receiving credible threats to their lives.

The Gambia has been in a state of uncertainty and continues to experience heightened tensions since President Yahya Jammeh rejected the results of the December elections. At first President Jammeh conceded defeat and congratulated the political opposition, later denouncing the results, announcing he would challenge them in court. In line with the Gambian constitution, the newly elected president is due to be inaugurated on 19 January 2017. The clampdown on independent media and members of the political opposition is aimed at preventing citizens from accessing information and intimidating those calling for him to honour the results and peacefully hand over power.

On 10 January 2017, the Chief Justice of the Gambian Supreme Court postponed the hearing of a petition filed by President Jammeh and his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) asking the court to annul the results of the December elections. The postponement was attributed to the court not having the requisite number of judges to make a ruling on the petition.

The West African regional bloc – the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – has called on President Jammeh to respect the outcome of the December elections and step down by 19 January. ECOWAS leaders have also held meetings with President Jammeh to persuade him to do the right thing.

CIVICUS calls on President Jammeh to cooperate fully with the leaders of the ECOWAS to ensure a peaceful transfer of power to avoid political instability and enhance Gambia’s democratic transition.

Gambia is rated as repressed in the CIVICUS Monitor.

ENDS

 Media Statement, CIVICUS, 17 January 2017