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Monday, October 2, 2023

Prosecution or persecution of Chairman Yankuba Darboe?


It was two years when Yankuba Darboe was seen uttering unpleasant remarks against the President and judges and immediately retracted then and apologised to the judges. While I condemn the use of any profanities against anyone and any institution, I do not agree that his utterances should be considered a crime for prosecution. More concerning is that he is charged with sedition. After all what the Gambia went through during the Yaya Jammeh tyranny, every citizen must be hugely worried for anyone to be charged with sedition, again.

Sedition, otherwise known as insult law, is a draconian law first conceived and used by the colonialists to oppress people, which Yaya Jammeh came to use against politicians, journalists and any citizens who criticised him or his regime. The fight to remove Jammeh includes the fight to end the crime of sedition in the Gambia. Since we opted for democracy, we must recognise and accept that democracy also comes with a lot of baggage for which there is no need for prosecution.

The fight against tyranny in the Gambia is to guarantee that citizens have a right to criticise public officials and public institutions. Some of these criticisms certainly can be offensive, unpleasant, and uncouth. But this is no justification to use the police and courts to punish citizens for their expressed opinions. Such an action tantamount to persecution. Therefore, it is not expected that seven years after the dictatorship any Gambian will find his or her way to the courts to answer to sedition charges.

When he was Minster of Justice Abubacarr Tambedou had vowed that the government will not charge any citizen for sedition. Even though in 2018 the Supreme Court had ruled that sedition stands when it is about the person of the president, it must be noted that sedition in any form is undemocratic and should not exist in a republic. The president is not above the law nor is he the lord of the Gambia. Hence citizens have a right to express severe criticism and condemnation of the President. The Gambia is a republic in which the President derives his authority, legitimacy, and power from the people hence the people should have the right to criticise him, even unpleasantly.

Currently the Criminal Offences Bill 2023 is before the National Assembly. In his objects and reason for the bill, the minister of justice said, “The Bill seeks to align our criminal justice legislation with current trends by removing all provisions inimical to freedom of speech such as criminal defamation and sedition.” If this is the case, then why would the same government use a tool that it is trying to discard to punish someone with it? That puts to question the sincerity and honesty of the government?

In light of the above, why is the Inspector General of Police taking Yankuba Darboe before the courts for sedition? Especially after two years since those comments were made. In my opinion, this action is persecution for which all citizens must stand up to demand that all charges be dropped against Yankuba Darboe. After all, we have seen how other citizens have also used even more severe profanities against other political leaders and others for which the IGP did not act. Is this not selective justice by the IGP?

More seriously, Yankuba Darboe is an elected official and an active political actor. By bringing sedition charges against him it means an attempt to remove him from office by using the courts disingenuously. The action against Yankuba Darboe is nothing but persecution and to silence him. It is an act of weaponising laws and institutions to intimidate and suppress citizens especially political opponents, critics and activists, which is one of the unconscionable actions that notorious African governments use to undermine democracy and damage human rights. It must stop.

For The Gambia Our Homeland

Madi Jobarteh, Boraba

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