By Alagie Manneh
Three days after being called to report to police in Banjul, comedian Alhaji Bora Sisawo was yesterday released on bail. His bail was on the sum of D75,000 guaranteed by two Gambian sureties. No charges have been filed against him but he is required to report to Kairaba police station this morning.
The comedian was invited Sunday to clarify a comment he made on his programme Badinyaa Katcha aired on Saturday on Kerr Fatou Online TV platform. He did not return home until yesterday evening. The police have so far not said anything official about his detention.
However, according to his colleagues, Bora had expressed support for coups against ‘undemocratic and self-centered African governments’ and also condemned the arrest of Senegalese citizens who protested against visiting President Macky Sall. Reports said Bora had said the IGP and President Barrow should be ashamed of themselves for arresting the Senegalese protesters.
Speaking to The Standard from police detention yesterday, the comic-actor described his condition of detention as not bad apart from the fact that he has still not been told about anything after making clarifications on what he said on air.
“I was interviewed and my statement was taken. In it, I gave reasons why I said what I had said and I told them that what I said is my opinion,” Bora said.
The comedian added that he had received visitors from the National Human Rights Commission led by Imam Baba Leigh and also had access to his lawyer.
Bora said he should not be held responsible if people misconstrue or take his statement out of context. “What God knows is enough, and anything that is not God, I just don’t care. I have no fears,” he said.
The comedian said he was invited by police commissioner, Pa Alieu Jawara and when he honored the invitation, he was asked to clarify a comment he made on air. “He told me I am on record, and I accepted it,” Bora said.
“I am not a legal expert, but I know that the country is governed by laws and so I honored the invitation to come for ‘questioning’ knowing full well that my reluctance could be interpreted as a sign of guilt. My conscience is clear,” he said when asked why he had to honor the police invitation.
Giving a broader side to his condition, he stated: “I am okay. I take bath any time I wish and I am drinking attaya. But my rights are being violated in that I was not allowed to go home to run my errands. I was told to come and clarify an opinion I made which I did”.
Meanwhile, his detention has outraged the public, including politicians and activists who said it is unjustifiable and a violation of his right to freedom of speech.
They said it is an attempt to shrink the civic and political space by targeting and harassing people critical of the Barrow administration. Supporters of the opposition UDP accused police of being pushed to arrest Bora at the instigation of NPP supporters who made audios calling for his arrest over the comments.
Madi Jobarteh, a rights activist, commented: “The President and the IGP are not the father and mother of The Gambia such that a person should talk about them as one would speak about one’s father or mother. If the President and IGP do not want to be severely criticised then they should vacate public office immediately. No one begged them to seek public office. They did it on their own freewill. Let them know that public office is not their personal property nor are they above public criticism.
The harassment being meted out to Bora today was the same harassment Momodou Sabally faced last year. It was the same harassment I, Madi Jobarteh faced in 2020. It was the same harassment Ismaila Ceesay faced in 2018. It was the same harassment many other ordinary citizens and politicians such as Mamma Kandeh faced since 2017! Why?
The IGP must be told that he cannot jump on citizens just because of the divergent and dissenting opinion of that citizen. In all of these cases, the police would nicely call the victim for questioning only to detain the person illegally and then slam them with some bogus charges. This must stop now”.
The Standard tried unsuccessfully to get comments from the police over the matter.