By Omar Bah
A lecturer at the University of The Gambia, who was Wednesday evening questioned and detained by the police, has said that his experience is a wakeup call to all Gambians that the country could easily ‘sleepwalk’ back into another dictatorship.
Speaking to The Standard following his release yesterday, Political Science lecturer Dr Ismaila Ceesay said: “My experience was harrowing given the fact that we were not expecting to experience this, in the New Gambia. Nonetheless, it is a wake up call for every Gambian who cares about this country and for the human rights of every Gambian. There are no guarantees. We could easily sleepwalk back into another dictatorship if we are not vigilant.
“Now we should learn lessons from the past 22 years of dictatorship and ensure that we do not take a U-turn to dictatorship with these things happening. I think my resilience and my refusal to be intimidated and my refusal to be given bail although it was my constitutional right, choosing to stay there until they drop the charges is sending strong signal to the government that no more would Gambians allow to be intimidated or suppressed in this country,” he said.
The young academic said Gambians should “be very careful” with the new government’s rhetoric on the newfound freedom of speech and democracy. “Jammeh came here, he fooled us with accountability and transparency and this new government is fooling us again with human rights, rule of law, freedom of speech and new Gambia. That is not the issue; the issue is what they do in practice. I think we should be very vigilant as Gambians in every walk of life; be it journalist or any other person, because I was picked up and detained for giving an expert opinion about issues regarding authorities. Tomorrow it could be you. We don’t know whether it will snowball into a full-blown dictatorship. That is why I think we have to be vigilant,” he added.
Gambians, Dr Ceesay added, must ensure that his case is the last time that the government tries to intimidate and suppress people.
He said even the newfound democracy that the government is claiming ownership as an important achievement was fought for by Gambians.
“In fact, they are being deceptive because they don’t even know how to handle it; that is why their actions are counterproductive to what we fought for. So for me, the statement that they fought for the newfound democracy, is misleading and disingenuous. Let them come up with something else as an achievement,” he challenged.
On his invitation and detention, Dr Ceesay said “The police said they were not happy with some of the pronunciations I made. They asked me whether I made those pronunciations, I said yes. But I think they were concerned that my intention was to incite violence and also to undermine the security of the state. But I told them that was not the intention as I was just expressing my opinion as an expert analyst in an objective manner but that was not the point of view they held,” he explained.
“They questioned me for three hours and then they detained me in a cell for another five hours after which they took me to the Serious Crime Unit, interviewed me and charged me with incitement to violence.”