By Alagie Manneh
Pansy Tlakula, the outgoing chair of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR, has warned oppressive leaders, especially Africans, that “the astonishing and sudden change” of government in The Gambia is a clear sign they cannot “oppress people forever”.
Pansy, who is also the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, was speaking at a side event Thursday on the margins of the 61st ordinary session of the ACHPR and the 15th anniversary since the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in The Gambia was made.
While paying tribute to the new government for bringing back “hope and courage” to the people of The Gambia, Pansy used the occasion to send a message to African leaders, especially those “oppressive” leaders.
“What happened in The Gambia shows that leaders cannot oppress their people forever. People will rise and fight oppression. We have seen it in this country,” Pansy, who is going home after 12-years in The Gambia as Special Rapporteur, told delegates at the Senegambia Hotel.
She added: “What happened in The Gambia showed the resilience of the human spirit. “
The Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure Demba Ali Jawo used the occasion to pay tribute to the late journalist Deyda Hydara, who was gunned down in December 2004.
He described Deyda as a champion and promoter of press freedom and freedom of expression.
According to him, had the previous regime respected certain principles of theDeclaration, the circumstances under which Ebrima ‘Chief’ Manneh disappeared, the detention and exile of several Gambian journalists as well as the illegal shutting down of media outlets, would not have happened.
He added: “It is also our intention to engage the cabinet on the decisions taken by the Ecowas Court in respect to the late Deyda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan to make sure that although justice is delayed but is not denied. You will certainly agree with me that after 22 years of the repressive regime where structures were deliberately dismantled by the former regime so that they can entrench themselves and deprived the public from their right to know, it is an enormous task to reestablish state-media relationship.”
Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou, said in contrast to former President Jammeh’s time, there is already an existing good relationship with the media, suggesting that plans are underway to strengthening it even further.