Gambia CSOs Ask Senegalese Gov’t To Release Detained Oppositions, Journalists, Activists & Others
By Landing Ceesay
The Gambia Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on the Senegalese government to release all opposition figures, journalists, activists, and protesters, and to grant them amnesty.
Senegal has been rocked by unrest for weeks after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was acquitted of rape charges but convicted of corrupting the youth and sentenced to two years in prison. The sentencing of Sonko for corrupting youth did not sit well with his supporters, who took to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the verdict. Since the protests began, over 20 people have been confirmed dead, and hundreds more have been injured. Senegalese security forces have also arrested hundreds of protesters, including journalists.
In a press statement signed by Mrs. Yadicon Njie Eribo, Chairperson of TANGO, Gambian civil society organizations (CSOs) called for urgent action from all concerned parties, including President Macky Sall of Senegal, opposition leaders, and civil society actors in Senegal, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union (AU). The CSOs said that these parties must work together to find solutions to the crisis in Senegal.
“We call on both sides in Senegal to exercise restraint, sit down and hold dialogue; the Government to release all detained opposition figures, activists, journalists, and protesters; and grant amnesty to all; Government to Re-open all media outlets and ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are protected; All parties to refrain from doing anything, directly or indirectly that put undue pressure on the justice delivery institutions,” CSOs said in their statement.
The Gambian civil society organizations (CSOs) urge the responsible parties to take all necessary measures to de-escalate the violence in the country and restore peace.
The CSOs asked the Senegalese government to engage the key political figures including Mr. Ousmane Sonko in dialogue to seek reconciliation and unity of purpose in the interest of democracy and peace in Senegal.
“We wish to call on Mr. Ousmane Sonko and other opposition political figures, parties, and movements in Senegal to urgently restrain their supporters and cease protests as a means to give peace a chance and encourage President Macky Sall and the Government to seize advantage of this rapprochement to embark on de-escalation, peacebuilding and strengthening of democracy; We urge the Senegalese Civil Society to remain steadfast and engage positively to ensure that all political leaders and security forces dialogue to find peace and uphold democracy.
“We urge all Civil Society leaders and Organizations in West Africa, especially the West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) to engage their counterparts in Senegal in ensuring that the Government of Senegal, ECOWAS, and the AU undertake urgent efforts to avert the collapse of democracy in Senegal which would have devastating effects across Africa,” Gambia CSOs said.
The Gambian Civil Society group went on to express its total solidarity with the people of Senegal and its support for the triumph of democracy and human rights. The GCS also called on President Macky Sall, who is a former Chair of the African Union and ECOWAS, to recognize and uphold his duty to ensure that democracy and accountable leadership prevail in Senegal, the Gambia, and throughout Africa.
The CSOs also call on the leaders of ECOWAS and the African Union to realize and uphold their historic duties to the ECOWAS Treaty and the AU Constitutive Act and Charter, and to all sub-regional and regional instruments that demand the prevalence of democracy and protection of human rights in Africa.
“In this regard, we therefore recommend to both ECOWAS and AU to be proactive as follows: Dispatch a joint high-level mission led by the AU Chair Person, President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros, and the ECOWAS Chair Person, President Umaro Embalo of Guinea-Bissau to visit Dakar to have urgent dialogue with President Macky Sall and the opposition leaders to remind them of their duty to uphold the law, defend and abide by democratic norms and standards and protect human rights as a means to ensure the peace and stability of Senegal, West Africa and the African continent as a whole,” the CSOs called on the International Community.
Civil society organizations (CSOs) also reminded all opposition leaders to refrain from inciting negative emotions and instead encourage their supporters to maintain peace and order even during protests.
“In conclusion, the Gambian Civil Society will seek engagements with our Senegalese counterparts in order to enable all of us to play our part effectively and fully in ensuring that democracy and peace prevail in Senegal. In this regard, we also call on the Gambia Government to actively engage their Senegalese counterparts to remind them of their sacred responsibility to the promotion and protection of democracy and maintenance of peace and stability,” the CSOs said.