Monday, May 30, 2016

Senegal and ECOWAS must act to prevent bloodbath in The Gambia

Sall and Jammeh

It is becoming increasingly evident that human rights abuses in the smallest country on the African continent are increasing in frequency and brutality with more ordinary Gambians being tortured to death and raped because they oppose the regime of Yaya Jammeh.

The recent protest demonstrations against the draconian electoral laws passed last year that ensues the continued dominance of the Jammeh-led ruling APRC party that has been in power since 1994 led to the arrest and subsequent death in custody of Mr. Solo Sandeng, an opposition youth leader.  Others who were arrested with Mr. Sandeng were reportedly raped while others have still not been accounted for.

When the United Nations and Amnesty International calls for a full and independent investigations by the Jammeh regime, the request was met with belligerent and defiant reaction from the Gambian dictator by asking Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty to "go to hell."  After all, there was only one death and therefore doesn't warrant an investigation, according to Jammeh.

As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jammeh is expected to adhere to and respect international laws and norms, and that includes ECOWAS protocols.  Instead he flouts them with impunity.  In the wake of the recent and rare protest demonstrations against the Jammeh regime, the human rights abuses have increased both in severity and scope.  Dozens of protesters have been arrested, several killed and raped while others gone unaccounted for.

Amnesty International (AI) has been sounding the alarm against the brutal regime of Yaya Jammeh that the Head of Amnesty, Salil Shetty, now characterizes the regime as a "murderous" one by blasting neighboring states of ECOWAS for staying mute and not coming out to condemn the atrocities being meted out to defenseless Gambians.

Salil Shetty is quoted as saying the "things are going from bad to worse" and that "journalists and civil society are under attack."  The electoral system, including the recently passed Electoral Reform Act of 2015, is rigged in favor of Jammeh. leading Mr. Shetty to conclude that the results of the upcoming presidential polls were "known in advance," an observation which should serve as notice to those opposition leaders on the ground insisting on going to the polls come hell or high water.

Unless there is drastic overhaul of the electoral laws and the dissolving of the corrupt and partisan Independent Electoral Commission, the exercise will be a futile one with Jammeh returning to power, more embolden and more brutal.

In meeting with the Senegalese president recently, Shetty urged him and his ECOWAS counterparts to speak out and "take their responsibilities."  Not to do so would be "shameful."  We join Salil Shetty and Amnesty International in demanding a more aggressive approach to dealing with what has now amounted to a scourge or a cancer that is threatening the peace and stability of the region.   It is the responsibility of President Macky Sall and ECOWAS to act against the tyrannical regime in The Gambia.