The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations said it is deeply concerned by the recent remarks of the Presidential Adviser Hon. Henry Gomez referencing the brutality meted at the victims of April 10 & 11, 2000 student demonstrators.
Henry was reported to have referenced the April 2000 demonstrators in manners meant to threaten Gambians planning to stage a demonstration to demand the resignation of President Adama Barrow.
Barrow came to power on the backing of 7 political parties and 3 independent candidates on promises that he would serve a 3-year transition and resign. But the Gambian leader has since changed his mind and now wants to serve a 5-year term as mandated in the constitution.
A group calling itself “3 years Jotna” has vowed to take to the streets in December to demand the president’s resignation as he promised. This position does not seem to go down well with several supporters of Barrow, among them, Henry Gomez and Interior Minister Ebrima Mballow who promised the would-be protesters a “hot water” from water cannon.
Meanwhile, the Gambian authorities have shown sign of readiness in anticipation of mass protest. The country has purchased a water cannon truck and the police are being trained on crowd control by French Police.
On June 24, the Victim Center said:
“Whilst the Gambians and victims of all kinds are coming to terms with current revelations unfolding before the TRRC, Hon. Henry Gomez is preoccupied in politicizing and distorting facts regarding the victims of April 10 & 11, 2000 student demonstration thereby traumatizing victims of this incident that have been fighting for justice for nearly two decades.
“His unacceptable comments suggesting that students were used by external forces during the April 10 & 11, 2000 student demonstration was inconsistent with the facts established by the Commission that was later setup to probe the incident. Thus, his suggestion that the April 10 & 11 students were used by external forces is unfounded.
“Like many, the Victims Center is dismayed by this frivolous statement from Hon Gomez, and as a result, the Center cannot let it go without expressing its repugnance to such irresponsible remarks. It is totally unacceptable and deserves absolute condemnation in the strongest terms. As a Presidential Adviser, he ought to speak responsibly and work for unity and a cohesive society.
“Hon. Gomez’s statement is unpatriotic and we expect the Gambia Government not to condone such statements and must publicly reject and condemn same. Citing brutality meted on victims and distorting well established facts surrounding the April 10 &11, 2000 student demonstrations are clear indications of his lack of empathy and respect for the dignity of victims of such an unfortunate incident.
“It is worth noting that Hon. Henry Gomez was not acting in the best interest of the country, but rather propelling personal interest. These irresponsible remarks of his must not be allowed to be a tool to distract our collective pursuit of justice and accountability for the victims of human rights violations in the Gambia; instead it should serve as a source of strength and bring victims together to fight for redress.
“The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations will continue to work with relevant partners to facilitate justice to victims, through national, regional and international mechanisms to ensure that peace continues to prevail in the country.
“We therefore call on Hon. Gomez to urgently withdraw his statement and apologize to the victims of April 10 & 11, 2000 student demonstration. We also call on the Government through the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Ministry of Justice to clarify their position on his statement.
“Finally, we advise Hon. Gomez to respect the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights as enshrined and entrenched in the Constitution of The Gambia.”