The University of the Gambia Faculty and Staff Association wishes to respond to the press release issued by the Gambia Police Force dated the 1st of February 2018. Following an appeal by the police to disperse the crowd that formed at the entrance of the Police headquarters in Banjul in the early hours of the February 1st demanding Dr Ceesay’s unconditional release with a public apology, senior police officers including the police PRO in attendance had given their word that charges have be withdrawn and that the police will apologize. However, the press release issued a few hours afterwards did not only contradict that promise but it was also full of misinformation.
The release claimed that “Dr Ceesay was interviewed until 22:00 hours when he was granted self-bail which he declined to accept”. This is a clear misinformation. First of all, it doesn’t follow logic that someone who has merely been invited to be interviewed and not arrested and detained could be granted self-bail. The fact is that Dr Ismaila Ceesay was invited for questioning on the 31st of January, 2018 around 13:30pm, interrogated for three hours and later put behind bars for 5 hours with no explanation offered on his detention. Meanwhile, friends and family including his ailing mother demanded some explanation from both the officers at the Interpol and the Serious Crime Unit where they all denied knowledge of who ordered his detention or why in fact he was detained.
It is one thing to be called for questioning and allowed to leave when that is done, and quite another to be put away in a cage as if you were a criminal or a dangerous animal and no one willingto explain why that was happening. Eight hours passed before Dr. Ceesay was finally summoned at the Serious Crime Unit for further questioning, and charged for incitement of violence under section 59 of the criminal code which states: “A person, who, without lawful excuse prints, publishes or to any assembly makes any statement indicating or implying that it would be incumbent or desirable-
1. To do any act calculated to bring death or physical injury to a person or to any class or community of persons ; or
2. To do any acts calculated to do any destruction or damage to any property,
Commits an offense for which he may be arrested by a police officer without warrant and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years.”
In breaking this down, Dr. Ceesay has only granted an interview to only one journalist where he gave his expert opinion on the security situation in the country. He did not print the said interview, neither did he publish it himself nor given any statement in that effect to an assembly (note that an assembly constitutes more than two people). In addition to that, Dr. Ceesay’s genuine intentions were to draw government attention to security lapses that exist as a result of certain miscalculations which could pose a long term national security risk and not the contrary.
Instead of committing a crime, Dr. Ceesay has in fact been exercising his rights as granted by the constitution which guarantees that:
“(1) Every person shall have the right to-
(a) freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media; Association and movement
(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;…”
Therefore, the UTGFSA recognizes that the police has a duty to apply the law but strongly maintain that in this case, they have not acted in tandem with the rule of law, and that their actions were unprofessional and politically motivated to say the least.
The UTGFSA call on the IGP to do the right thing and apologize to Dr. Ceesay for infringing upon his rights.
We would like to close this statement with a quotation from a respectable historian and political scientist Prof. Abdoulaye Saine of the United States, “Dr. Ismaila Ceesy’s comments are a thoughtful and succinct assessment of the troubling security environment in the Gambia. Ceesay should be applauded, and tapped for a senior security advisory position, rather than arrested for raising a national security dilemma that is apparent to most observers. Clearly, Ceesay is being singled out; as he is not the first to express these concerns- speak to any Gambian. The troubling practice under Barrow of retaining, and rehiring key Jammeh loyalists in top security posts, is routinely discussed among specialists, and laypersons alike, I am still at a loss, as to how two Jammeh loyalists from Equatorial Guinea could so easily breach security protocols at the national airport. It is a fact that the Gambia’s security apparatus have been sidelined by ECOMIG forces- a recipe for future instability.”