I was thrown in a cell like a criminal: Interview with journalist Baboucarr Sey

Written by Alieu Khan

He is one of the most prominent sports journalists in the country working with Paradise FM as Head of News and Sports Department. Baboucarr was arrested and charged on Friday for his involvement in a land dispute between Ambassador-at-large, Saul Frazer’s company and the youth of Kololi.

Read below our interview with Baboucarr:

What’s On-Gambia: It is reported that you are the first journalist to be arrested in the “New Gambia” Is this true?

Baboucarr: Yes, I am aware of that and it’s very unfortunate that I was illegally arrested for just trying to maintain peace and stability in my area, Kololi.

Can you elaborate, please?

The land problem between Global Properties/Swami India and the young people of Kololi Johannes started years ago. But it wasn’t until after the presidential election that Global Properties/Swami India started developing the land denying the youth access to the land where they played football for so many years.

I was born and raised in Kololi but left the area three years ago.  After my short exile in December last year, I came back home  to realise that the youth of my area are still resisting and went to the extent of demolishing the fence that was built.  I went there myself to see the situation and called an emergency meeting and advised them in the very words of American civil rights leader, Whitney Young “You can holler, protest, march, picket and demonstrate, but somebody must be able to sit in on the strategy conferences and plot a course. There must be strategies, the researchers, the professionals to carry out the program. That's our role”.  So I told them that demolition of properties is not the solution to the problem thus we have to engage the authorities to look into the land issue.

What happened later?

I was able to convince them to stop the destruction and allow me to write letters to the authorities concerned and plead with them to investigate the issue since global properties are claiming to have bought the land from KMC. I also organised a press conference that was also attended by the elders of the area who appealed to the government to leave the land for the youth.

Since then there hasn’t been any damage on the land because they listened to my advice and agreed to the proactive strategies I laid before them.

Why were you the only youth leader arrested and dragged to court?

Exactly, that’s the question I’m struggling to find answers to, they summoned me at the police station and questioned the reason behind my organising a press conference without obtaining a police permit? My response was when did they start issuing permits for one to organise a press conference? The officer retorted that the gathering was large thus the reason I needed a permit.

They also wanted me to reveal the culprits behind the demolition of the fence.  I volunteered no information because I wasn’t there when it happened.

I was then asked to write my statement and after an hour I was charged and whisked to Kanifing Police Station to be thrown in a cell like a common criminal.

Were you granted bail?

I was arrested on Friday and was granted bail on Sunday after the youth of Kololi came in their large numbers to the police station with activists like rapper Killa Ace.

Disappointed with the new government?

Very, very disappointed because people like me thought illegal arrest and detention would become a thing of the past after we collectively fought so hard to remove dictator Jammeh from State House. How so wrong I was!

Have you appeared in court?

Not yet!

When do you think that would happen?

I’m still waiting for them.

Will you continue to stand by the young people of Kololi?

I was not  hundred percent into this crusade due to the nature of my work and academic engagements but now that they have arrested me albeit  illegally; I will join my brothers and sisters in kololi to engage the authorities using the right way. I will never campaign for violence and destruction of property in any shape or form.

What's your message to the government?

Things like illegal arrest and detention should not be allowed to rear their ugly head in our New Gambia.