UN Official to Visit Gambia this week

Sources from the UN Security Council indicate that Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Mohamed Ibn Chambasthe Special Representative for West Africa of UN Secretary General will visit Gambia from 14 to 15 January 2015.

In briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in West Africa covering 1 July to 31st December 2014, the UN Special representative said, according to Sputnik:   “I am planning to visit Banjul on 14-15 January and meet with President Jammeh. I will reiterate our firm condemnation of any attempt to seize power by unconstitutional means, and encourage the Gambian authorities to work with the support of international partners, to ensure the credibility of judicial procedures and the respect of human rights.”

According to the representative, there have been reports of arrests of family members of alleged coup plotters. Meanwhile on December 31, the UN Secretary General called for the establishment of a transparent investigation into the failed coup d’etat.

The coup attempt took place on December 30, when the State House in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia was attacked, while president Jammeh was out of the country.

In briefing the Security Council on 8 January 2015, Mr Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), said West Africa’s political landscape remains delicate as nations across the region continue to grapple with insecurity, terrorist threats and tensions ahead of a busy election cycle.

According to him “Recent developments demonstrate the fragile political situation in many West African nations in the lead-up to presidential and legislative elections in 2015-2016,” said Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

In answer to a question at a press conference after briefing the security council Mr Chambas said the following:

Question: I want to ask you about The Gambia. I know that on Dec 31st the UN Secretary General said there should be an independent and thorough investigation and you said you are going there on Jan 14th to encourage Gambia to follow a credible judicial procedure. What type of investigation? There are complaints about an independent radio that was asked to broadcast only music, and people are arrested around the world for allegedly participating in the coup attempt. What do you see as your role, do you think that you can encourage The Gambia to follow an independent investigation?

Chambers: The UN’s role is to encourage the country. The coup has been condemned by the Security Council, by governments around the world; all ECOWAS members’ states because there is now zero tolerance for coups and unconstitutional change of governments.

Now what we need to do is to ask Gambia government to understand that it would be in the interest of The Gambia that there is thorough investigation into the attempted coup, not only credible but seen to be credible and we believe that support can be provided in that direction and this should be what we will seek to do for the Gambian authorities to accept support to conduct investigation that would be transparent and open and if subsequently charges are to be undertaken, the judges can be provided so that the due process of the law is respected.

Question:  There is a radio that is taken off air, or to broadcast only music. Do you think it is part of your role to mediate so that media can start reporting on post coup attempt?

Answer: I do not know about this particular instance but in the general context that we are working in West African societies including Gambia, freedom of speech is very important. For journalists to do their work it is of crucial importance in a democracy.