CSOs defend Madi against Barrow

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By Omar Bah

The Gambia civil society organisations have strongly condemned President Adama Barrow’s ‘threats’ against activist Madi Jobarteh.

Addressing a meeting with Muslim elders at State House last week, President Barrow accused Mr Jobarteh of wanting to burn down the country and said his government will look into his affairs.

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The president also criticised Gambian media for continuing to give platform to Jobarteh whose only interest, he alleged, is “to incite chaos in The Gambia”.

Last Friday, the civil society called a press conference at TANGO following an emergency meeting last Wednesday on the president’s comments. The CSOs described the president’s comments as “sad and an insult to our collective intelligence as a nation”.

In a long statement shared with the media, the CSOs expressed concern over the president’s “blatant attack” on Gambians’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

It reads: “Have Gambians forgotten so quickly how Yahya Jammeh started? How he branded anyone that spoke against him as an enemy of the state and how he used the state machinery to instill fear and eventually silence us? Have we forgotten how people started disappearing? Have we forgotten the dark period in our history that even in the privacy of our homes, we had to look over our shoulders before saying anything about the Government? Dictatorship indeed has a start date. Civil Society has not forgotten and that is why we come today, to the home of NGOs and CSOs, TANGO to demonstrate our distaste at such remarks, unbecoming of a Statesman. We come to remind our leaders that ‘the horse has already bolted from the stable’ Gambians are not going back to the days of tyranny. NEVER AGAIN Mr President.”

The CSOs reminded the president that the life of Mr Jobarteh has been dedicated to the Gambia and for the empowerment of the people, the building of democracy and the maintenance of peace in the country.

“Every citizen has an inherent right to criticise its government and that right must be protected and not threatened or taken away. The people defied all odds to elect you into office Mr. President and the people will do all in their power to guard against the infringement of their rights in any shape or form. Mr. President, Gambian civil society is diverse and vibrant and has complemented the government’s efforts since the 1970s.

“Mr. President, our nation is plagued with a plethora of issues and challenges that are a more potent force to set the nation alight, that we want our government to address, rather than attacking citizens. The increased corruption allegations without transparent investigations and prosecutions, high cost of living, poor service delivery by public institutions, erratic power supply and Internet connectivity, coupled with their outrageous charges, growing crime rate and fatal car accidents, high unemployment rate and so on.

“The poor are getting poorer and public servants continue to erect mansions and allocate land to themselves. The people are watching. To the Executive, Mr. President and your cabinet, please recommit yourselves and government to guarantee the continued protection of our rights to speech, expression and assembly.”