At the height of our fight to rid The Gambia of Jammeh, there were many doubters as to whether we will be able to pull it off in 2016. We happened to have been among those who were not expecting his defeat through the ballot box but through public protests employing Arab Spring tactics of civil disobedience. Therefore, it was as much a pleasant surprise for us as it was for millions of Gambians and friends of the Gambia across the globe to dislodge an entrenched 22-year old brutal and corrupt dictatorship. .
Although skeptical of the election route, what was never in doubt was the power of the human resolve to achieve what looked, at the time, unachievable and thus the battle cry of the moment among the online activists: "Never Relent". Our advice then, as now is never give up or surrender your core beliefs and values because your life is meaningless without them and a life without a set of values, in our view, makes you less of a human.
Although a child of the colonial era, born, raised and high school educated in the colony of Banjul, I have always felt liberated, enjoying all the inherent freedoms that every freeman and woman was endowed, even when the top three to four most senior police officers in the Police and the Field Forces were British and so were most of the Commissioners (now called Governors).
This brings us to the incarnation of the Public Order Act of 1955, not by any colonialist or imperialist oppressor but by one of our own, a brutal and corrupt African dictator in the name of Yaya Jammeh that sent the top echelon of the United Democratic Party, including its leader to jail using the very same 1955 odious law. It now appears that it is the same sword of Damocles that is being dangled over our heads by the transition government we all fought so hard to elect to usher in the New Gambia under new management and new orientation.
Instead, the government decises to operationalize a relic of our colonial past that Jammeh used to jail his opponents and Governor Edward Windley used to crush the “Bread and Butter" riots of 1959.
Whether the Barrow administration realizes it or not, the insistence by the Inspector General of Police to reverse the previous decision to allow the #OccupyWestfield protests is raising concerns among our traditional allies and friends abroad. The trend is chilling as it is disappointing.
If the Inspector General of Police cannot guarantee the safety of a few hundred peaceful demonstrators, as initially projected by the organizers, then Gambians have every reason to question his fitness to man the post. The security of the country must also be in a much more precarious state than ever imagined to cause the denial of law abiding Gambians to exercise their inherent right to publicly display their displeasure at their government; even in the presence of ECOMIG troops in the country?
ECOMIG’s mandate had recently been extended for one year with the simultaneous drawdown from the initial troop level of 4,000 to its current 2,500 stabilizing force level. Can you blame laymen if the IGP’s claims are treated as suspect? We believe we could do better, as a country, with more confident leadership from our politicians as well as our men and women in uniform, especially now.