KEBBA JEFFANG NARRATES HIS ORDEAL AT THE UDP/NRP/GMC PRESS CONFERENCE

Even before the press conference was started journalists were being intimidated by the crowd of supporters of the political parties.  Of course we knew the greater number of them belong to the United Democratic Party (UDP) with few from the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC) if the GMC even have their supporters in at all. We wondered since then what type of press conference the event was simply because the aggressively-looking supporters far outnumbered the journalists.

After Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, Hon. Hamat Bah and Lawyer Mai Ahmad Fatty, the leaders of the UDP, NRP and GMC respectively, read their statements, I was the first to ask my questions. As soon as I introduced myself as a Foroyaa Newspaper journalist, I was been continually interrupted by heckles from all directions. I could hear them saying “He is sent by Halifa Sallah. It was hard to put my questions across because of the constant heckling. I could hear my fellow journalists telling the aggressive supporters, “please allow us to do our job” but they paid no heed. But I knew I had a job to do, so I remained composed and made sure I put my question across in a respectful manner.

My questions were directed at Lawyers Darboe and Fatty. To Darboe, I asked him for clarification and the question was: What caused the split since it looks like the tactical alliance he mentioned was part of the options Halifa referred to last week in his press conference. As for Mai Fatty in his deliberation he stated that the coalition cannot contest in the election based on legal ground. I then asked him: If coalition could contest in the presidential election to unseat President Jammeh, why can’t they do the same in unison in the parliamentary election?

Darboe clarified the differences saying they split because others including the PDOIS, NCP, PPP, GPDP and GPDP are not in for tactical alliance but to contest as independent candidates which they cannot do because they don’t want their parties to die. Fatty answered that Adama Barrow whom I used in my question as a reference is one but that cannot be applied to all the constituencies. It was from here I started to face more intimidation just because of these two questions.

At the end of the press conference, while I was still in the room directly standing opposite Mr. Darboe who was flanked by Mr. Bah and Mr. Fatty, a young man approached me from behind telling me: “Why not you go and ask Halifa Sallah?” I kept quiet and he repeated it again and I told him “I am here as an independent journalist representing Foroyaa Newspaper, not Halifa.” He insulted me. He continued to harass me with insults. This happened right infront of the 3 leaders.  A crowd was attracted by the scene and I was held by a colleague from GRTS Radio Abdoulie Sey who escorted me down stairs. The insult on me and my mother intensified. Some could not understand what happened yet they were following and insulting me. I was now escorted by two police orderlies that came with the ministers to the event as I continued down stairs. Meanwhile the shouts and insults continued unabated such as why should I insult Mr. Darboe? An allegation that I never did.

As Sey was still holding me towards the highway, they followed me. This time one of them hit me and I defended myself. They came in a group to attack me including women one of whom scratched my neck with her finger nails leaving brushes on me. They tore my shirt at the scene. I suffered internal shoulder pain too.

As larger crowds now approached me on the highway, I was forcefully pushed into one of the taxes packed on the road side. This vehicle was obstructed by the supporters for it not to move. They were hitting the car continuously.

Kebba Jeffang,

Foroyaa Newspaper