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Gambia: The Gambia is making significant progress in relation to human rights

The Gambia is making significant progress in relation to human rights.

Dear Mr. Mbai, I wish to cover the recent public outcry surrounding the Gambia police force(GPF) inviting Dr. I Ceesay for questioning concerning the article he published in the local newspaper. He was initially charged with allegedly inciting violence and the charges were subsequently dropped by the police. In my opinion, such action by the police is a major indication that the Gambian government is making significant progress in terms of human rights and respecting the rule of the law in the country. I have applauded Dr. Ceesay’s incisiveness and the manner in which he had conducted himself when he was released. I did not however, share the view by those who believe that Dr. Ceesay should never have been invited for questioning in the first place because in their view “he did nothing wrong”. Reaching such a firm conclusion bearing in mind the current security concerns in the Gambia after the airport blunder is naïve.

What we have to understand is that, there is no “intellectual democracy in the world”: in any democracy where there are issues concerning national security, the police have the legal right to issue warrants and effect the arrest of any individuals or invite anyone for questioning if they deem it absolutely necessary until they can establish the facts from fiction and then determine the next steps from there. Consequently, if there is evidence of any wrongdoing, the person might face the full force of the law accordingly, otherwise the law can set the person free as it was the case for Dr. Ceesay.

Though, democracy is contextual. Thus, while we continue to build our new democratic institutions the foundations of which are human rights and freedom, we ought not to be complacent because complacency would be our biggest enemy. What we need now is greater collaboration between the civil societies and the Gambian government to ensure peace and stability is maintained at all levels. Whilst advocating for good governance, which includes freedom of speech, transparency and accountability because we cannot afford dictatorship anymore; at the same time, we ought not be the hinderance to the core of that framework. Our willingness to respect and maintain the rule of law in the country would be profound for sustaining the human rights and good governance which we have been craving for a long time. Therefore, we should thank all those human rights institutions who expressed concern over Dr. Ceesay’s case and make sure his rights and freedom are respected. Furthermore, in relation to this case I am calling on all human rights bodies including any stakeholders involved in this case to desist from taking any further action against the government i.e. court battles or public demonstrations, which might not serve any national interest. Let’s turn the page and move on.

In this new dawn of democracy in the Gambia let us wisely use our intellectual platform by ensuring that civil society is always enlightened in accordance with our culture, religion and give the chance to the government to govern appropriately and occasionally hold them accountable when they go astray. As intellectuals in our new enlightened era, let’s make sure we pursue relevant political matters concerning national economic development rather than favouring issues which are less significant just to gain short term popularity. Otherwise our new freedom platform would be a huge missed opportunity for all of us.

Dr. Ceesay is not only a role model to many thousands of students in the Gambia, he is also a role model for many Gambians like me. I will urge him not to let people use him or to use his case as an excuse to derail our steady economy and political progress which is on the right path. Right now, what we need in the Gambia are not resistant revolutionaries but rather benevolent revolutionaries. Because its only one Gambia one people!

Yaya Sillah

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