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BRIKAMA INCIDENT: Does fault lie with the police alone?
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BRIKAMA INCIDENT: Does fault lie with the police alone?

First I will put three views condemning the police outright. Madi Jobarteh writes as follows:-

“It is almost 24 hours since members of the paramilitary police, PIU have been captured on video severely beating a human being like a dead donkey. Yet until now, neither the IGP nor the Minister of Justice nor the Minister of Interior nor the President and not even the National Human Rights Commission, felt it necessary to speak to this gross abuse of power, act of barbarism and blatant disregard of human rights and the rule of law”.

Lawyer Darboe also referred to that “viral video” in his warning that “the police must stop provocations against UDP members”. Lawyer Darboe even said something to the effect that “if the UDP members were not disciplined they had the numbers to overpower those few officers but they restrained themselves”.

What's On - Gambia’s Top fan, Abdoul Kabiru Bajo, also stated as follows:-

“It's sad that PIU officers know nothing about managing a crowd professionally because they are only trained to brutalize unarmed civilians. They are very ignorant of the fact that force should not be used in response to peaceful participation in public gathering or demonstration. Wherever they used force chaos in place of peace has been the result. Faraba Banta incident is a case in point. Why not you start using communication technique to effectively manage any crowd? You need to talk with civilians first, engage them, ask them why they are out in the first place, listen to their concerns, don't see them as your enemies and, most importantly, empathize. You have to stop being loyal to presidents, you should always be loyal to the state because presidents come and go but the state always remains”.

Now for the other side.

I spoke to an in-law living in Brikama and she said:-

“The UDP supporters rioted when Sabally was rejected. The IEC office was attacked and the PIU officers received stones. People were injured and were taken to hospital”.

That “viral video” shown during Lawyer Darboe’s press conference also showed what looked like a UDP supporter in yellow being beaten by PIU officers. That video also showed people throwing stones.

In conclusion:-

1. It seems to me that there was a riot and stoning by angry Momodou Sabally supporters;
2. The police, outnumbered as Lawyer Darboe says, were in danger of losing control and responded forcefully, and even violently, as we saw in the video.
3. If the police had lost control (and let us be clear, The Gambian Police do NOT have the manpower or resources to put thousands to police an event as here in London when Notting Hill Carnival gets something like 20,000 police officers), so if the police had lost control we would have seen them resorting to firing live bullets ... and the result would have been another Faraba Banta incident.
4. The National Human Rights Commission did issue a statement at once condemning the police use of force on that young man, but they also advised that citizens should avoid violence and protest peacefully. Dr. Ismailla Ceesay made a similarly balanced statement.
5. It is a massive exaggeration for Madi to say that the incident was a “gross abuse of power, act of barbarism and blatant disregard of human rights and the rule of law”. The over-stretched PIU officers (with their own safety threatened!) were in fact protecting “the rule of law” as we depend on them to do – though indeed on this occasion some got carried away with fear and emotion in the dangerous situation they found themselves in (they are human too!).
6. If anyone is to blame for what happened, I would blame the IEC because Momodou Sabally’s candidacy should not have been rejected at that venue – but by letter or email.

PS: It is reported that the IEC has rejected Sabally’s appeal, as I predicted a couple of days ago. As I also said a couple of days ago, Sabally’s appeal will be rejected by the courts on its merits eventually, though Lawyer Darboe’s SUO MOTO argument leaves open the possibility that the IEC’s initial decision may be ruled unlawful: i.e. like last time at the Supreme Court, the UDP may win first and then lose finally!

Let us keep The Smiling Coast peaceful.

By Dida Jallow-Halake,

Notting Hill, London.

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