By Omar Bah
Hundreds of UDP supporters Friday marched through the capital Banjul to protest against what they say is endemic corruption in the country.
Last week, the inspector general of police, in a rare move, granted the UDP youth wing permit to hold the protest.
“This is the first time the government has granted UDP a permit for more than 27 years. We used to apply but the government never accepted. I thank the youth wing who took the steps in applying for the permit,” UDP leader Ousainu Darboe, said ahead of the protest.
He described the event as “a positive development” that could be “a turning point in the country’s political landscape”.
The protesters flanked by riot police waved anti-corruption banners and chanted: “Corruption is crippling our economy. Mr president, more than a dozen serious corruption cases await you. You cannot close your eyes, treat all audit recommendations seriously and prosecute all corrupt officials!”
Before the commencement of the procession, deputy UDP leader, Aji Yam Secka, and other leaders of the party advised the protesters to be disciplined and respect the conditions given by the police.
Lawyer and former UDP parliamentarian, Ya Kumba Jaiteh told the journlists: “Enough is enough. The youths of this country have decided to stand up and safeguard their future and resources.”
Speaking shortly before delivering a petition addressed to the attorney general and the speaker of the National Assembly, Binta Senghore, president of the UDP female youth wing said the main objective of the protest is to demand greater transparency and accountability from the president and his government.
“We are calling on the government to design a robust anti-corruption institutional framework anchored on laws with a three-pronged – prevention, investigation and prosecution – strategy against corruption that will inspire public officials to carry out their work conscientiously for the public good,” Senghore said.
In the detailed petition, the protesters demanded that the government and the National Assembly take the fight against corruption seriously. They urged the president to issue a certificate of urgency to expedite the passing of the Anti-Corruption Bill.
The petitioners also highlighted the high cost of living and the raft of recent financial scandals and urged the government to address the sleaze and graft suffocating it.
“We urged the government to direct the auditor general to conduct special audit exercises in all corruption related matters and ensure the Ministry of Justice and police investigate, prosecute, and sanction the people found wanting,” the petition added.
Shortly after receiving the petition on behalf of the justice minister, Solicitor General Hussein Thomasi said the government is committed to the fight against corruption.
He stated: “It was the government’s initiative to bring the Anti-Corruption Bill before the National Assembly. It is now at an advanced stage and we are all hopeful that soon it will become law. So, the government has a zero tolerance for corruption.”