Mr President, don’t gloat over tear-gassing citizens

Mr President, don't gloat over tear-gassing citizens

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On 16th December 2019, thousands of Gambians staged unarguably the biggest anti-government protest in the history of the country.

The protesters demanded, among other things, President Adama Barrow step down as he promised during the 2016 campaign. The president had vowed to serve only three years in office after which he would resign and not contest in subsequent elections.

President Barrow however stayed and even went further to form his own political party, the National Peoples Party. This enraged a section of the citizens who protested against this decision. Security forces clamped down on the protesters with batons and teargas, arresting over 130 and injuring dozens. 

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While addressing supporters on Wednesday in Farafenni, the president rehashed this incident rather gloatingly:

“They formed Three Years Jotna here. 3YJ’s chief executive is my own father, Alhaji Ousainu Darboe. But when I threw gas on them, until today…I told my security chiefs that when quarrel takes longer, only fighting can end it.”

The crowd clapped and cheered on as if that would change anyone’s life or living condition. That wasn’t supposed to be said. No one should be happy about that incident, Mr President, because it tainted our democracy. Gassing, beating, arresting protesters should never be used on your campaign trail. It sends all the wrong signals and reminds us of the dark days under dictatorship. 

Mr President, even though you were away but your trade minister signed a code of conduct on peaceful election on your behalf. That code commits you and every other candidate to run issue-based political campaigns. The Gambia is poor, with majority of people lacking basic essentials in life. Talk about how you can uplift their living standards, not how you gassed them. The code also commits you to publicly condemn violence and intimidation. Mr President, with this revelation that you actually ordered the security to clamp down on citizens, you have committed violence and, gloating over it alone, intimidates other citizens who probably have different political affiliation.

Everyone knows this is the most high-stake election this country ever held and fears of violence and instability have been palpable. We want to just vote in peace. So, as you continue campaigning for those votes, preach peace and reconciliation, not committing and rejoicing in violence. Can you do that for us?