EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: The United Democratic Party (UDP) has said in a statement on Monday that it strongly condemns the disproportionate use of force and acts of violence against innocent protesters during an ant-government demonstration that lead to injuries and hospitalization of over a dozen of people on Sunday.
The party said the protesters were only engaged in exercising their democratic rights to protest under a permit issued by the Inspector General of Police.
On Sunday, a pressure group that call themselves 3 Years Jotna Concerned Citizens clashed with police in an ant-government protest calling for president Adama Barrow to respect the three years mandate agreement he had with the coalition 2016 leaders during his campaign.
“The United Democratic Party is known for its respect for human rights, tolerance and adherence to freedom of expression and assembly: as demonstrated by its conduct over the past 25 years,” the party said in the statement.
It said it took note of graphic images of Gambians being brutalised by personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), including the beating of female protesters who are already arrested. “The UDP urges those who continue to advocate and claim to be supporters of women’s rights to review their positions in view of the mistreatment of innocent female protesters.”
Since December last year, Gambia is gripped by string or protest and counter protests. While the pressure group calls on President Barrow to honour his three years mandate agreement and step down for a fresh election, former President Yahya Jammeh’s loyalists also protested asking for his return from exile.
Loyalists to the Jammeh-led APRC party that ruled the small West African nation for two decades are also calling on the government, Ecowas, UN and the AU to respect the agreement they had with Mr Jammeh before his going into exile in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, three years ago.
“The closure of media houses is unacceptable. Media reports have it that the Minister
of Information was not privy to any decision taken to close these media houses. We condemn this action on the part of the police and urge government to reopen these radio stations immediately. The arbitrary closure of media houses and arrest of journalists was the hallmark of the Jammeh administration,” the party further said.
The party further stated that it understands that many arrested individuals have been denied access to legal advice and family visits, and some of them require medical attention, saying they have been denied these rights and that is reminiscent of the Jammeh era excesses.
King FM and Home Digital FM were closed by the government for what it called their fueling of the protest.
The party said media images showed a young man who lost his teeth and was bleeding profusely as a result of violence by the PIU. These are not the kind of images and types of actions Gambians expect to see post-2016, neither is this the change Gambians voted for in December 2016.
“The United Democratic Party calls upon the government to observe the principles of the rule of law and cooperate with the Human Rights Commission to conduct an enquiry into why a peaceful and lawful demonstration was violently disrupted.”
It said it equally appeal to all citizens to exercise restraint and observe the rule of law in the exercise of their rights in the interest of peace and national security.