Calm Returns To Gambia Amidst Opposition Crackdown

UDP Leader Ousainou Darboe

(JollofNews) – Life is returning to normal in the Greater Banjul Area of the Gambia after the government launched a crackdown on the leadership of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP).


The UDP’s leader, Ousainou  Darboe and other party executive members were arrested Saturday following a second round of demonstrations in the country, with supporters demanding answers over the death in custody of a senior party figure.


The security forces armed with assault rifles fired tear gas at the protesters, according to UDP officials.


Around 150 supporters had joined Mr Darboe to call for justice in the case of UDP organising secretary Solo Sandeng, who died in custody on Thursday, according to his party and the Amnesty International rights group.


Mr Sandeng had led a protest which ended with Gambian security forces beating and arresting dozens for making a public call for electoral reform and the resignation of  President Yahya Jammeh.


Before taking to the street, the UDP boss gave a defiant speech at a press conference at his residence on Kairaba Avenue, prior to his arrest calling for the release of his detained colleagues and the return of Sandeng’s body.


“These people have done nothing wrong. They have exercised their constitutional right and that constitutional right we are now going to exercise,” Darboe said.


“We are going out there to ask for Solo’s body to be given to us. We are going to ask for Madam Fatoumata Jawara and the rest to be released.”

“We are not going to allow anyone to trample on our rights on the pretext you want to maintain security and stability in this country,” Darboe told journalists.


But soon as they began walking towards Kairaba police station and chanting the slogan : “We need Solo dead or alive,” they were met by security forces armed with assault rifles who fired tear gas at the protesters, according to eyewitnesses.


With the arrest of the UDP leadership, the protest was quelled and order was swiftly restored.


Many people in the Gambia were not aware of the protest. No curfew have been put in place and people are going about their normal and daily businesses.


The Gambia will hold presidential elections in December 2016, with legislative and local polls to follow in April 2017 and April 2018.

The tiny West African nation of less than two million people has been ruled by Yahya Jammeh since 1994, when the then 29-year-old seized power in a bloodless coup.