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City of Banjul
Thursday, July 25, 2024

Alhagie Bora bailed but harassment continues

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I just got to learn that Alhagie Bora has been bailed on the third day of his illegal detention by the Inspector General of Police. This is precisely because the police do not wish to cross the third-day line lest they violate Section 19 of the Constitution which gives the police 72 hours as maximum time to detain someone. This means the police would have kept him under detention much longer if this constitutional provision does not exist. Why should it take this long to bail him, yet failing to charge him until now?

Bora was initially invited by the police who said they only need to clarify his comments in a television show. In his comments about the Niger crisis, Bora first spoke about the political situation in West Africa where elected presidents manipulate constitutional and democratic processes in order to prolong their stay in power contrary to the existing law.

We saw in Guinea under Alpha Conde and in Ivory Coast under Alasane Ouattara how they triggered sham referendums in order to change the constitution to give themselves a third term when the constitution stipulates only a two-term presidential tenure. We came to see the same game being nearly played by Macky Sall of Senegal who was poised to seek an unconstitutional third term if not for the steadfast resistance of the Senegalese opposition, civil society and intellectuals.

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Bora also spoke of the culture of abuse by west African governments in which they weaponize laws and institutions to clampdown on the opposition, civil society, journalists and citizens in general. Furthermore he spoke of the blatant corruption and inefficiency of west African governments while the people are plunged into perpetual poverty and deprivation.

In this regard he made reference to the arrest of Senegalese protesters in the Gambia when their president visited. Indeed Bora is right that the act of arresting or preventing Senegalese protesters is utterly shameful, illegal and cowardly.

It is in light of these circumstances that Bora said coups are triggered. But he also condemned military coups and juntas as well who he said also become tyrants and corrupt the moment they assume office. Therefore it is clear that Bora has no preference for corrupt and incompetent governments whether they are civilian or military.

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Now he took the conversation further to say given the foregoing he does not support an ECOWAS military intervention in Niger. In fact he said he supports the juntas in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. For that matter he said he also supports the junta in Niger and which should be defended and even he is willing to pick up arms to go defend them.

What Bora said is a hot issue being currently debated across the region among all strata of the population. There are conflicting positions and ideas as to how to address this Niger issue. Lot of focus is also on the state of democracy and governance in the region and the role of ECOWAS which many perceived to be a gentleman’s club of corrupt head of states.

I do not support military coup because soldiers are not meant to govern politically. But also I condemn the governments in West Africa for their corruption, inefficiency and incompetence. I don’t think ECOWAS should use force to dislodge the military in Niger. Rather a peaceful way is the solution which must be discussed.

But I totally stand with Bora that his comments are not illegal nor constitute incitement to violence and he has the right to say what he said. One has to follow the nature and trend of this television show to realise that Bora poses no threat to anyone hence it was not necessary for the police to even invite him only to detain him. His motive was not to even pick up arms rather he was merely expressing a frustration on a matter that concerns everyone..

Therefore if the police were acting professionally and have truly genuine concerns why should it take them more than 48 hours to determine the nature of his comments, legally. But after 48 hours the police have not charged him but only to bail him which means subjecting him to unending reporting every morning. If Bora committed an offense why cannot the police just charge him accordingly and let him go home to prepare for his trial?

The IGP must realise that he is not above the law. He must realize that the police does not have unlimited and unchecked power. Yes, the police can invite any citizen on a matter that they have enough concerns. But they have no right to harass or waste the time of anyone with impunity.

As citizens, let us not downplay our freedoms. Let’s not allow state officials and institutions to act as they like. Similarly let us not allow any citizen to violate the law or rights. If Bora had violated any law or right, I would be the first to call him out. But he has not.

Let us stand with Alhagie Bora now. Let us not allow the police to harangue him with unending reporting only to slam him with irrelevant and trumped up charges and then jail an innocent man. What is happening to Alhagie Bora today is not new. He is only the latest victim in a long line of victims which must stop. What is happening to him is yet another manifestation of the weaponization of laws and institutions to assault citizens.

The attack on Bora like others before him is meant to silence citizens and the media hence shield the Government away from public scrutiny. If they succeed with Bora it means directly or indirectly forcing media houses and journalists and also citizens in general to censor themselves in order not to offend the police. We cannot live in a society in which citizens are afraid of the police to the point of avoiding to express their opinions.

Stand with Alhagie Bora.

Madi Jobarteh


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