In a meeting with the Serer Community at State House, President Barrow has said that he will instruct the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to deny permits for political activities when he wins the December 4 presidential election.
“Since I took over in 2017, there are people who are still politicking. The Politic cannot end. Everyday, they are drumming, everyday they are blocking the roads, everyday they are on social media, everyday they are insulting people. That will stop on the 4th of December, if we win.
“I will give the Inspector General of Police (IGP) instruction. Anyone who apply for permit will not be given because we want to continue working. The meetings you are doing and blocking the roads do not benefit The Gambia, in anyway,” President Barrow said while addressing the Serer Community in a meeting at State House on Sunday.
He cited that in Senegal when elections are done, all of them get to work. But politics that never end, exists only in The Gambia which he said cannot continue.
The above comments of the Barrow has sparked worries and triggered responses from opposition politicians and the Civil Society.
In their response to the President’s comments, the United Democratic Party (UDP) spokesperson Almameh Fanding Taal told Kerr Fatou that UDP believes in positive politics rather otherwise.
“UDP believes in positive politics not divisive politics which involves inviting different ethnic groups to the State House just so that tirades bogus claims and meaningless ranting can be televised by GRTS,” spokesperson Taal said.
The presidential candidate for Citizens’ Alliance (CA) Dr. Ismaila Ceesay said the remarks have vindicated his party’s claim about Barrow.
“This statement from Barrow President validates our point that he will be making a grave and costly mistake, if this man (Barrow) is re-elected. He does not deserve a second chance,” the CA leader remarked.
The Youth President of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) MC Cham Jr. described the President’s comments as his anticipation to introduce dictatorship in the country.
“His so-called plan to ban rallies is anticipation to introduce dictatorship in the country. These useless threats are mere signs of panic of the president. Gambia is a nation of laws. And so, the President and the Inspector General of police are not above the law.
Voting for President Barrow means voting for dictatorship which means- arbitrary arrest, torture and possible exile of citizens. I hope the Justice Minister will ask the President to revoke that threat and apologise,” Mc Cham Jr reacted.
For human rights activist Madi Joberteh, the President’s comments is unconstitutional and undermines democracy and good governance in The Gambia.
“The Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly. Secondly The Gambia is a signatory to international human rights and norms that guarantee the right to protest. The Constitution therefore places a legal obligation on the President to protect this right. Hence for him to say that he will instruct the IGP to refuse permits to protest is unconstitutional and a direct violation of human rights that also undermines democracy and good governance in the Gambia.
“Freedom of assembly is the lifeblood of democracy because it empowers citizens to hold the State accountable. Hence to deny citizens to protest means to effectively kill popular participation and accountability which means to promote corruption, abuse of power and violations of rights by public institutions and public officials,” he said.
Jobarteh urged the Police Chief to refuse such instructions from the President.
“I would urge IGP to reject any such instructions, if they come from the President. The IGP is not expected to operate in a way to serve the personal political objectives of the President or to deny citizens to demonstrate and hold the state and other entities accountable. Failure to reject the President’s unconstitutional instructions but to carry them out means the IGP is equally violating the constitution. Above all, by denying citizens to exercise their constitutional right is in itself grounds for impeachment since it’s a violation of the constitution,” Madi informed.
The Chairman of the coalition of Civil Society Organisations John Charles Njie reminded the President that Gambians will never allow to be taken back to ‘dictatorship’.
“The President should be reminded that he doesn’t have the final say as to whether he is to be reelected. That is left to the wishes of the Gambian people. So before talking about beyond December 4, let him cross the bridge of December 4 first. Secondly the issue of not allowing people to campaign, I think sometimes, yes, we get bothered that there is too much noise around the country, but that has to be agreed by all political parties.
“Laws should be able to dictate what and what happens. But let me be also quick to say that I hope this is not in anyway trying to infringe upon on the rights of people, the freedom of expression. Because if that is the case, Gambians will fight with blood, sweat and tears to ensure that dictatorship will not return to this country. The President cannot get up and just say that people cannot say and expression themselves freely. We will fight it to our last drop of blood. So let him not try the Gambian people,” he concluded.