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NEVER AGAIN NETWORK: NO TO COUPS AND UNJUSTIFIABLE ARRESTS

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Baba Jallow, Chairman Never Again Network

The Never Again Network is alarmed by reports of a foiled military coup. Any attempt to unlawfully remove a democratically elected government is unconstitutional. The Gambia is undergoing a socio-political transition to reconstruct the state after 22 years of brutal dictatorship borne out of a military takeover. The coup in 1994 negatively impacted the political trajectory of our nation, established democratic norms and respect for rights and freedoms. It also caused Gambians unimaginable pain and suffering for more than two decades. For these reasons, the Never Again Network, unequivocally condemns in the strongest possible terms, any attempt to change government through the illegal use of force. The constitution of The Gambia, the supreme law of the land, expressly vests the sovereignty of the nation in the people. The same law reposes in the citizens the power to exercise their franchise in electing political leaders to power through democratic processes. Therefore, the illegal use of force or other unlawful methods to alter that fundamental constitutional arrangement threatens the very foundation of our constitutional democratic dictates. 

Following the removal of Yahya Jammeh from power through the ballot box in 2016, The Gambia has embarked on various transitional justice mechanisms to prevent a reoccurrence of the past wrongs. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) was established in 2017 to investigate violations and human rights abuses that occurred as a result of the military coup in July 1994 and to rewrite accurate historical records of what occurred. The TRRC submitted its final report to the President in November 2021 and the Government of The Gambia issued a White Paper in May 2022 on the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission. The TRRC is arguably the most important public inquiry in the history of our nation and its key mantra was Never Again. On that basis, a coup is not only a deliberate attempt to circumvent and usurp the sovereign will of the people, it is also an insensitive way of reneging on the legitimate expectations of the people for a system that is premised on good governance, democracy and the rule of law. In addition, a military coup is a traumatizing reminder of our very recent past. 

The Never Again Network advocates for respect for the rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedoms. In that vein, while we condemn the attempted coup, we also urge that the due process of the law is observed and respected. The constitution presumes all suspects of a crime innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. Thus, we urge the authorities to observe the right to free and speedy trial. The Never Again Network seeks to recreate a society that is law abiding, respectful, tolerant and democratic.    

With regards the Rule of Law, the Never Again Network takes this opportunity to call upon the authorities to immediately release Momodou Sabally. If Sabally was indeed arrested for the statement he made to UDP tiktokers about his party taking over the government from President Barrow, it is our opinion that the arrest and continuous detention are not justified. Arbitrary and unjustifiable arrests were a key characteristic of the ousted dictatorship and cannot be allowed to resurface in our country. We urge the government to immediately release Mr. Sabally and allow this country to move on in line with the dictates of human rights and the rule of law. 

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