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Dep Speaker says Darboe’s comments are ‘baseless’

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Deputy Speaker Seedy Njie has said it is “dishonest, plain pretence and idleness” for anyone to suggest that there is no democracy and respect for the rule of law in The Gambia.

Mr Njie said this in response to a statement released on Monday signed by UDP leader Ousainu Darboe which “noted with grave concerns that since the appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker [Seedy Njie] in 2022, the APRC politics of weaponisation of state institutions have made a comeback”.

The statement asserted that “arbitrary arrests, detention and state violence forms of intimidation that dictator Jammeh practised extensively to stifle dissent but failed to cow opposition to his tyrannical government” are re-emerging. Darboe said appointments to high offices of state are now based on partisan considerations. “This conflates the distinctive role of the permanent professional public services with the elected political class, which requires no professional qualification except senior secondary school certificate,” he said.

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Reacting to these, Mr Njie said: “My style of politics has always been underpinned by respect, maturity and restraint. It has always been my view that the better and more serious politician is the one who puts across his views without being overzealous or unmanneredly. I plan on always living by this principle, yet, I want to address UDP leader Ousainou Darboe’s attack on my person and our security forces.

“To put it out there, I would have been one of Mr Darboe’s most celebrated men if I had accepted his invitation to join UDP. But after I declined his invitation, he settled on the only other choice: to antagonise me. In his statement, he wrote that ‘since the appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly in 2022, the APRC politics of weaponisation of state institutions have made a comeback’. This statement is false and unfortunate.

“It is a fact the Mr Darboe weaponised the institutions of state when he was foreign minister and vice president. He was the most powerful man in the Barrow government and presided over the worst clampdown on both perceived and real political opponents. In 2018, I was arrested and detained on the orders of Mr Darboe. It was his nephew, Muhammed Kanteh, who is [now] a senior member of the UDP and National Assembly Member who arrested me.

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“Appointment to positions of authority or influence both local and in the foreign service by his recommendations were mainly based on political, friendship ties, family and or tribal inclination at the expense of competence and loyalty to state. No wonder, Gambians started enjoying the fruits of good governance and unprecedented development after he was yanked out of [power].

“Denial of permits to legally registered political parties for meetings and rallies was the order of the day when Mr Darboe was in charge of government. It was during his time that APRC supporters were tear-gassed and a siege was laid at their leader’s home in Tallinding. Their leaders and members were routinely arrested, detained and charged and all these became history when Mr Darboe ceased to be a member of the government.

“He threatened Gambian teachers, members of the security forces with dismissals. I have never been involved in the arrest, detention and dismissal of any Gambian throughout. Any person with evidence of my involvement in the arrest, detention and dismissal of anybody is invited to come forward. It is ironical that Mr Darboe who championed the plan to ban APRC while he was in government in 2017, 2018 and 2019 is the one defending and fighting for a faction of the same APRC.

“Mr Darboe should stop bullying our fine security men and women who are working day and night to keep us safe. If he cannot thank them for their service, he should not try to put them in harm’s way.

“For us, our view is that the government should be and is inclusive of all citizens irrespective of party, religious and regional affiliations. We have a country to build and I will not let Mr Darboe distract me.”

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