The past seven days had been one heck of a week in The Gambia.
It was marked by a lot of political grandstanding and gamesmanship. The Truth and Reconciliation and Reparations Commission return with more tales of horror culminating in a series of protests, the last being the Three Years Jotna movement’s follow-up protest which was aborted and ended with skirmishes and burning of tyres and flammables and run-ins with officers of the Police Intervention Unit.
But perhaps the two most important developments of the week were the much-awaited Ecowas court ruling that the 2016 arrest of opposition UDP leader, Ousainu Darboe and thirty others by the APRC regime was lawful and did not violate Articles 5, 6 and 11 of the African Charter.
While the court rejected the appeals of Mr Darboe and his co-litigants, it ruled that the torture, inhumane and degrading treatment meted out to him, Femi Peters, Lamin Dibba, Lamin Jatta, Fanta Darboe-Jawara, Nogoi Njie), Fatoumata Jawara, Fatou Camara, Ebrima Jawara and Modou Ngum violated Article 5 of the African Charter and therefore ordered The Gambia Government to US$100,000to them for the hardships and violations of their human rights.
The ruling has significant political implications and might affect the line-up of the challengers in the 2021 presidential election. It might also be the end of the road for Mr Darboe and his cohorts who have, since their release from Mile 2 state central prison after the fall of former president Yahya Jammeh in December 2016, been actively trying to clean the slate of their 2016 conviction record.
The other significant development happened 5,800 kilometres away from Banjul in the North Atlantic city of The Hague in the Netherlands. The International Court of Justice ruled that Myanmar (formerly Burma – where hundreds of Gambian conscripts fought the Japanese and other Axis powers between 1944 to 1945), should prevent all genocidal acts against Rohingya Muslims and take steps to preserve evidence.
Myanmar’s military committed extensive atrocities against the Rohingya, including murder, rape, and arson, that peaked during its late 2017 campaign of ethnic cleansing, forcing more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. The ruling is significant because it is The Gambia Government under President Adama Barrow that took Myanmar to the world court.
On November 11th, 2019 Justice minister Abubacarr Tambadou, made an application to the court that Myanmar violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and urgently sought provisional measures. As former Pakistani Interior minister and current senator Abdel Rehman Malik wrote in a letter to the editor (see Page 3), The Gambia’s stance has made it emerge taller among the Muslim nations of the world. It was indeed gladdening to see hundreds of Rohingyas in refugee camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere raising placards and chanting ‘Thank you Gambia!’
This is a pat on the back for all Gambians, President Adama Barrow, Minister Tambadou, the government and all the people of The Gambia. Kudos are also in order for former president Yahya Jammeh. In May 2015, he was the first world leader to condemn the destruction of the Rohingya and offered to resettle them in The Gambia as part of a “sacred duty” to alleviate the suffering of fellow Muslims.
“The government of the Gambia notes with grave concern the inhumane condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – especially those referred to as ‘boat people’ –currently drifting in the seas off the coast of Malaysia and Indonesia. As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with,” a statement issued by State House noted at the time.
This is edifying. And it should serve as a very instructive lesson to the government in regard to how it maintains the rule of law and observance of human rights here in the country. The Barrow government should not allow it to be hailed outside while cursed inside, otherwise it will lose its moral voice and authority.
The government should realise that it is between a rock and a very hard place and that if it lets its militant political opponents set the agenda for it, it will transmogrify into a hammer and every problem will look like a nail to it. That is why it should be careful how it deals with the Three Years Jotna protest yesterday afternoon.