By Sailu Bah
This incident happened on Thursday 16 April 2015, around 6pm, when the UDP was supposed to have a meeting with the community of Fass Njaga Choi in an identified place of the Village.
On Friday 17 April 2015, senior police officials in the North Bank Region could be seen stationed with their black four wheel drive transports at the roadside near the Fass Njaga Choi market. The Police Commissioner of NBR was stationed a little further on the same side of the road with a four wheel drive beside him. Another police vehicle was stationed some metres away just beside the mosque. About a dozen PIU officers were seen around a vehicle under a tree. Some of them were seen with riot gears, including gas canisters, helmets and goggles.
The UDP party militants including the Leader Ousainou Darboe were seated at the other side of the road under a tree with 5 vehicles that are parked around where they are sitting, that is, a 37 seater mini bus, a van and three four wheel drives. According to Mansata Sumareh a party Militant, they came with 7 vehicles. One four wheel drive was escorted by the police to the Barra police station while another was on an errand.
She stated that no UDP vehicle heading towards Amdalai is allowed to pass through Fass Njaga Choi.
“We are not allowed to pass, because the police are standing on our way which is not right,” he lamented.
Party leader, Mr Ousainou Darboe, explained: “Well my entourage left Banjul on a caravan tour Yesterday Thursday 16 April 2015. By 3pm we held our first meeting at Essau.” He explained that from Essau the entourage proceeded to Fass. “At the end of the meeting we left to come to our next place in Fass Njaga Choi. When we arrived here around 6pm we found that police have physically blocked the high way with their police vehicles and they came back to see me and asked me where is the permit? And I told them permit for what? And there was a lot of argument.”
He said he explained the position of the law to him. “I told him that under the Public Order Act we don’t need a permit to hold a meeting; we only need it when using a public address system. If we are denied a permit we can hold a meeting, we are not using a public address system to hold our meeting.
“He asked me what about four or five persons assembling together, I told him we have the constitutional right to assemble and we are not going to ask for permit to do that.
“So the police made a standoff on the road, and called for reinforcement to stop us going further.”
If they continued to block them, Darboe said: “we will stay here until 26th April 2015, the day our tour should come to an end, and go back to Banjul.”
Mr Darboe continued: “This is absolutely wrong; we don’t think that the police are properly implementing the Public Order Act. They should have been giving us escort so that no body interrupts our meeting.”
Furthermore: “We know that the APRC National Mobiliser is going round the country without anyone stopping him and why should he be stopped.” He indicated that creating obstacles for political parties enables the ruling party to win elections.
He pointed out that on Thursday people in Fass were frightened and closed their shops.
Mr Darboe further said the nation should be concerned. According to him “Gambia is a state where all political parties have equal rights, where individuals have equal rights. It should be everybody’s business that in 2016 we elect a government that Gambians deserve. I am also telling Gambians that no one should keep away from voting.” He characterized those people who don’t go to the polls to vote as the people who elect bad governments.
Regarding the permit which is the source of the problem, Mr Darboe explained as follows: “We wrote a letter to the police for a permit on the 2nd April 2015. Until on the 15th April around 3pm we received a letter from the police telling us to indicate the times of our meetings as well as the venues. This letter was not considered by the police until the last minute when it will be late for us to respond because we have to start our tour on the 16th April. We decided to go ahead with our meetings without using Public Address System.”
Nyimansata, a militant, said they should not be stopped from exercising their constitutional right. She explained how they had to sleep
in the vehicles they came with.
Mansata Sumareh, a party militant from Busumbala said, “We are a registered party and we have all rights to hold meetings in all regions without a Public Address System with or without a permit,” she asserted.
The North Bank Police Commissioner, Mr Modou Sowe declined to discuss this issue, and referred this reporter to the police Public Relation Officer.”
The UDP entourage, stopped at Fass Najaga Choi together with the party leader, Ousainou Darboe, confirmed from the Police Commissioner of NBR Modou Sowe, that the police will be issuing them with a permit today Monday 20 April 2015.
This was confirmed by Ousainou Darboe the party leader, to this reporter on Sunday 19 April 2015, at Fass Njaga Choi.
Mr Darboe said the commissioner met them on Saturday 18 April 2015, and promised to deliver the permit to them on Monday.
“Now we are waiting for the permit from the police on Monday 20 April 2015, so that we can proceed with our tour until the 26 April 2015. We will be going to Upper Nuimi, Baddibu and other places,” he explained.
Darboe said if they are not allowed to continue, they will stay at Fass until 26 April 2015.
Citing some of the constraints they faced, Darboe said since they came they have been spending the night under a veranda beside the road, but he said some good residents of Fass allowed them to use some of their facilities such as toilets for taking bath as well as water for their needs.
Mr. Darboe said they (themselves) catered for all their food. He also revealed that they would have stayed at their party chairman’s compound in Fass Njaga Choi, but they were stopped from going there and now they are outsidein the veranda on the roadside.
Omar Saho UDP Chairman of Fass Njaga Choi, expressed his disappointment on this issue. “When I heard that our people were stopped I was very much disappointed with what happened. These people should have come to stay in my compound as the UDP chairman,” he explained.
A brown four wheel drive, Opel Frontera, which was part of the UDP convoy was escorted to Barra by the police on Friday 17 April 2015, and during a visit on Sunday 19 April 2015 it was seen in the premises of the Barra Police Station.
The numbers of security personnel seem to have reduced by Sunday.
Another four wheel drive heading in the direction of Fass was stopped at Kerr Jatta, at the police check point on Sunday. According to the owner Karamo Jawara, he is a UDP party militant going to Fass Njaga Choi with four others but the vehicle was not allowed to go to Fass. He said they had to leave their vehicle behind and go to Fass, and boarded it on their way back to the Kombos. He also said they will be going back to Fass on Monday.
Police sources say no UDP vehicle will be allowed to enter Fass unless a permit is issued; that the vehicles in Fass are enough for now.
Foroyaa will continue to update its readers on any new developments.