EYEAFRICA TV: President Adama Barrow’s appointment of police chief Yankuba Sonko as interior minister have been contested by a group of activists who call themselves Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA), asking him to immediately rescind his decision.
“We are calling on President Barrow in the spirit of democracy, peace, reconciliation and advancement of human rights, to rescind Mr. Sonko’s appointment and all high level senior government officials who served and enabled Yahya Jammeh’s crimes and human right abuses,” the group said in a statement on Saturday.
They said failure to do so will only promote impunity and negate all the democratic gains Gambia has made in the last 25 years.
The activists say Mr. Sonko had presided over very dark periods in Gambian history, where the rights of citizens were grossly violated. “As inspector general of the police from 2010 to 2014, and again from 2015 to 2017, Sonko presided over a very dark period of Gambian history.”
On August 22, President Barrow effected a mini cabinet reshuffle in which he appointed Mr. Sonko as interior minister. The reshuffle, which is Mr. Barrow’s second cabinet changes since he came to office in December, 2016 also saw him appoint former Ambassador to the United States and Consul General at the country’s consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Omar Faye as new defence minister.
Many have associated former interior minister Ebrima M Mballow and Yankuba Sonko’s relieve to a string of panicking protests that ensued during their tenure, leading to the killing and arrest of some civilians by security officers. The protests include the Farababanta demo in June last year, when a group of angry youth of the Kombo East community clashed with paramilitary officers.
The group said Mr. Sonko was in the helm of affairs of the police when Gambians were denied of their rights by gross violation and any form of dissent brutally crushed by security forces, most notably, the Police intervention Unit (PIU) in April 2016. They said during those period, Gambians and the world watched in shock, the arrest and brutal torture of Ebrima Solo Sandeng and many others protesting for electoral reforms, in the aftermath of which Mr. Sandeng was killed.
A popular pressure mounted on President Barrow to fire Mr. Sonko as police chief and Mballow as interior minister for what they called their ‘inability’ to run their offices when another string of demonstrations covered Brikama and the Greater Banjul Area in July.
President Barrow’s latest cabinet reshuffle also saw the relieving and redeployment of secretary general and head of the civil service Ebrima O Camara and his own permanent secretary Muhammed BS Jallow, to other responsibilities.
The group said in its Saturday statement that after the torture of Solo Sandeng; who was then head of the United Democratic Party (UDP) youth wing and others which led to Mr. Sandeng’s death, the whole top tire of the UDP leadership and militants were arrested, man handled and detained for many months, saying these include women.
In June last year, while Mr. Sonko was the inspector general of the police, a group of angry youth in Farababanta clashed with paramilitary officers in a protest against the presence of Julakay Construction Company in the village, who claim it was issued licence by the government to mine sand there. Three men were killed in the incident and several others, including PIU officers sustained injuries.
“The Gambia is slowly trying to heal and reconcile from more than 22 years of ruthless dictatorship,” the group said, and added, “As we currently witness details of emerging from the TRRC, on the extent of brutality of the Yahya Jammeh, the failure of the security forces and senior public officials and with cases still ongoing in The Gambian courts, it is appalling that President Barrow continues to appoint those that were at the helm of that brutality and organised crimes to be recycled into Gambia’s new democratic dispensation during this difficult transition.”
It suggest that the nation can only heal and foster sustainable peace if those responsible for crimes and human right abuses are accountable and anyone who has not yet been exonerated are not put in the forefront of the present administration.