Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Secularism, freedom of the press, human rights and The Gambian State

Basiru Mahoney, Gambia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice, presented his government's case at the United Nation's 20th Session of the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva under the watchful eye of the dreaded Gambian Interior Minister, Ousman Sonko, who has been the Chief Enforcer of Jammeh's dictatorship.

The Attorney General's statement to the UN Panel was a compendium of lies and fabrications about the state of human rights in Africa's smallest and poorest country.

After the diplomatic fall-out with Taiwan, the resource gap created as a result forced Jammeh and his dictatorial regime to pivot towards the Arab world.  Even well before the new diplomatic tilt, came the incessant courting of the Arab - Gulf States with the introduction of the 4-day work week.  The declaration of Friday as a non-working day, made the Gambia one of the few countries to observe a 3-day weekend. Radical Islamists have been employed by the dictatorship to propagate a form of Islam that encourages the execution of political opponents of the president who has been preordained by Allah, and thus, must not be opposed by any mortal.  These Islamists are employed as Imams at State House, the official residence of the Gambian president and at government departments and at the University of The Gambia.

The declaration, therefore, of the Gambia's Attorney General and Minister of Justice that The Gambia is a Secular State is factual as far as constitutional provisions go but operationally false.  Yaya Jammeh has regularly sponsored Islamic scholars to deliver religious lectures on subjects that are nothing more that proselytization of a region, using State funds and State facilities in, what is supposedly, a secular state.   The latest fray into the evangelical no man's land by Jammeh was the invitation of Dr. Zakir Naik, the so-called Indian Muslim cleric who was quoted as saying Muslims, by definition, are and should be terrorists.

The rest of The Gambia's Justice Minister's presentation before the Review Panel had been equally spurious with claims that since Jammeh seized power illegally in 1994, there has been an increase in the number of private radio stations, implying that there is freedom of speech and expression.  What the Minister fail to say is that not a single one of these station is allowed to even read the news.  They are essentially music and sports stations.  They are not even allowed to translate the officially-sanctioned news into the local vernacular.  Radio stations have been closed for simply interviewing opposition party leaders.   For the Minister to claim that the opposition leaders have equal access to the national radio and television is a blatant and outright fabrication.  Opposition parties are each accorded exactly eleven minutes each for the entire presidential election campaign.

Mile II Prisons conditions are as appalling today as they have ever been.  In fact, those who've just been released from there say conditions have deteriorated, despite international pressure to force the regime to improve conditions.  Prisoners are still exposed to communicable diseases.  They suffer from malnutrition, and , of course, they are being physically abused everyday as a matter of routine.  According to latest reports, there are dozens of Gambians held in Gambian prisons, some for over 15 year, without charge. Some don't even know why they are being held, illegally.

Attorney General Basiru Mahoney failed the very Gambia public he's supposed to protect against the repressive regime he sides with in Geneva by willfully embellishing the human rights record of the Jammeh regime before the Review Panel of the United Nation in full view of the world.