‘Human rights still under threat in Gambia’

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By Alagie Manneh

One year after the fall of the autocratic regime of Yahya Jammeh, human rights is still under threat in Gambia, said outspoken civil society activist Madi Jobarteh.
Speaking to The Standard and RFI on his rating of the new government after a year in power, Jorbateh, programme manager for the Association of NGOs in The Gambia, Tango, said promises made to Gambians are yet to be fulfilled, while human rights still remain ‘under threat’.

“This government had said when they were campaigning that within the first six months, they will repeal or reform all laws that infringe on human rights, on popular participation. Now we are now one year, and those laws have not been reviewed.”

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Jobarter blamed ‘incompetence’ and ‘lack of political will for the absence of this. “They have the capacity to do this, and they know where we [Gambians] came from. One of those laws in their manifesto is the Public Order Act. In the Gambia, if you want to protest, you have to seek permission from the police and the police can grant or deny you the permit. In my view, that permit regime is unconstitutional, because the constitution guarantees freedom of assembly. Why therefore should we give another authority the power to either grant or deny you that right? It means this government is contravening the constitution he charged.”

According to the rights activist, this law should have been reformed “so that instead of a permit regime, we would rather have a notification regime, which would be in line with the African Human Rights standards as stipulated by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.”

He said the Supreme Court then went on to further anger even more Gambians when it passed a judgment in November, declaring the Public Order Act constitutional.
“That is a huge slap in the face, of human rights. It was this Public Order Act that caused Gambia’s foremost politicians to be put in jail, over the past ten years, he said.
Jobarteh added “I have not seen very clear, pragmatic, deliberate attempts to change the economic landscape, either by creation of laws or policies or programmes or even by the engagements that I would expect.

“One year down the line, cost of living remain the same or even more expensive now. From the economic point of view I have not really seen what I think should have happened.”

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