By Omar Bah
The Child Protection Alliance (CPA) National Coordinator, Lamin Fatty has raised concerns over the arrest and detention of a 16-year-old Gambian in Senegal and called for immediate government intervention.
Ousman Ceesay, a student of the President’s International Awards, was reportedly handed to Senegalese security officials by his brother as a guarantee for him to return to pay a fine when they were arrested for alleged illegal fishing.
Ousman’s arrest reportedly resulted in the firing of a warning shot between the Gambia Navy and the Senegalese forestry officers.
Speaking to The Standard, the CPA boss Lamin Fatty said he is particularly concerned about reports that the young Gambian was put in chains when he appeared in a Ziguinchor magistrates’ court last week.
“At the level of CPA, we have engaged the Police Gender and Child Welfare Unit to make sure that they intervene. The feedback we got from the deputy commissioner is that they have engaged the commissioner of Interpol. I was also made to understand that the Interpol had also written to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the issue,” Fatty said. He further disclosed that an NGO based in Senegal has contacted him over the matter and had requested to be provided with Ousman’s birth certificate.
Fatty said he had personally also engaged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson on the matter.
“The government should be able to engage Senegal because this is a minor. Why would you have a minor chained? And at the end of the day, it has been indicated that this particular child was just surrendered as a guarantee in order to get someone to come and pay. So to me this is unacceptable and the government must act now,” he said.
Fatty further resolved that “it is the government’s prime obligation to make sure that Gambian children are protected wherever they are, especially with the case of Ousman Ceesay, who was arrested within Gambian territory without the government’s involvement.”
“It is something totally disheartening and disappointing. CPA will continue to put pressure on the government to make sure that Senegal as a member of the UNCRC and having ratified the African Charter and Welfare of the Children observe these protocols,” he said.
The CPA boss said the relationship Gambia shares with Senegal should be based on respect. “The relationship we share should be based on respect, understanding and partnership. We cannot continue to go into any bilateral where our people will continue to be suppressed,” he said.
The Standard has contacted the police spokesperson, Superintendent Lamin Njie who made it emphatically clear that he had engaged the Police Gender and Child Welfare Unit but they said they have not received such a report.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saikou Ceesay has also told this medium his ministry has not received reports regarding Ousman’s arrest and detention in Senegal.
Also commenting on the matter, the GMC leader Mai Fatty said the reported arrest and prosecution of a Gambian national or Gambian registered fishing vessel for fishing in Senegalese territorial waters technically, is a repudiation of the existing bilateral fisheries agreement with Senegal, signed in early 2017.
“The Gambia Government should explore all, some or one of the following options; demand the unconditional release of The Gambian national with immediate effect, compensation for the illegally detained Gambian national, institute reciprocal action against a national or nationals of the offending State, clarification from the offending State on the validity of the Agreement, consider the arrest and prosecution of Gambian national as a repudiation, effectively terminating the Agreement,” he said.
He added: “By the way, I was against signing these Agreements at the time because The Gambian side did not have sufficient time to consult or study the documents prior to departure to Dakar, and I advised against it. Consequently, I did not take part in any of the negotiations although I was a member of the Presidential Delegation. An important bilateral Agreement covering Defense, Security and Fisheries should first be tabled before Cabinet with additional stakeholder consultations. There was no prior Cabinet discussion.”
“I know this because I was in the Cabinet. As the Minister of Interior, Security matters were under my purview. My Ministry did not initiate the document. We were not consulted in the drafting of the security agreement, and it did not contain any prior input from the Ministry. I couldn’t have signed such a document. The Fisheries Agreement suffered a similar fishy flashy process,” he said.