by Madi Jobarteh
Since Independence street protests get violent in the Gambia only when armed police personnel are deployed to the scene. They come in full combat gear with the intention to forcefully disperse citizens. In the process they kick and slap and insult which naturally generates a counter reaction from the protestors hence the violence. Because they have loaded guns they shoot bullets into the people.
We saw it in the Year 2000 leading to a student massacre. We saw it in 2016 when they forcefully dispersed and arrested Solo Sandeng and Comrades on April 14.
They repeated it on April 16 when they manhandled Ousainou Darboe and his party members. In all of these cases blood, tears and death followed. In Gunjur, Taneneh, Kololi, Manjai, etc we saw how protesters were being manhandled by PIU Officers.
This attitude must stop.
It shows a total disregard of the rule of law and the rights of citizens by the law enforcement agents. This is the problem of the country and not that citizens want to protest.
The narrative that the Gambia is fragile or unsafe is a damn lie. Otherwise let Pres. Barrow and his CDS and IGP tell us where and who are the external and internal threats this country faces.
Since January 2017 we have not seen any single or group of Gambians seek to destabilize this country violently. We have seen our political parties and our government organize huge open door street rallies, processions and conduct country tours without any violence.
Therefore let the IGP deploy only normal duty police officers today to protect the rights of #DafaDoy protesters bearing in mind that citizens have a right to protest and the Government has a duty to protect rights and create the space for citizens to peacefully exercise their rights.
If the IGP deploys the PIU officers and they provoke violence then the IGP and the Minister of Interior must take responsibility for any eventuality.
Armed police are last resort reinforcement hence they must not be the first to be deployed to a public assembly or demonstration. It is when such demonstration becomes violent and uncontrollable by the normal police personnel that an armed police could be deployed to maintain law and order.
Activists must realise that rights go with responsibilities. Protestors and Activists are not criminals. Activism is about standing up against injustice and violations. Activists are required to maintain peace and order.
Protests are peaceful, nonviolent and democratic practices that must be conducted as such. Activists are nation builders and social justice defenders. Activists are not nation destroyers.
For the Gambia Our Homeland.