Basidia M Drammeh
With the decision of the Inspector General of Police to deny 3 yrs Jotan Movement a permit to stage another protest on January 20 and the latter’s adamance that it will go ahead with its planned protest, no matter what, the Gambia is faced with a looming political stalemate.
The security apparatus cited national and public security concerns as a justification for its decision to bar 3yrs Jotna from staging their protest. The Ministry of Interior today issued a stern warning, signed by Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko, stating that “a violation of the position of the IGP by any person(s) shall be deemed as a flagrant violation of both the constitution of Public Order Act and a direct affront to the peace, security and public safety as well as the economic well-being of the Gambia and its people.”
On the other hand, the 3yes Jotna pressure group doesn’t seem to be backing down, as their officials maintained that they will go ahead despite being denied a permit. The Standard newspaper quoted an official of the Group affirming that there have been no changes to their planned demonstration to urge President Adama Barrow step down, in honour of the Coalition Agreement. Last month, the Group staged a massive protest followed by a counter-demonstration by the Gambia for 5 yrs who urges the President to serve out his constitutionally mandated five-year term, with each claiming to have pulled the largest crowd.
While I admit that peaceful demonstration is and assembly shall remain an inalienable constitutional right for each and every citizen, I do not personally believe that endless protests either for or against the President, will resolve the looming political impasse in the country. If 3yrs Jotna forges ahead with its planned protest, there will be doubtlessly a confrontation with security forces. To avert such confrontation the President needs to convene an emergency meeting involving all the stakeholders and protagonists to amicably resolve the issue. Having promised to preside over a three-year transitional government, the President certainly needs to justify his decision to prolong his stay beyond three years, rather than being combative or confrontational. Some would argue that the disintegration of the 2016 Coalition is the root cause for the mess in which we have found ourselves. However, the lingering question remains: Who is responsible for the collapse of the Coalition? The answer to this perplexing question depends on which camp you ask.
After two decades of autocracy and despotism, Gambia is transitioning to “nation rebuilding” in a deeply polarized and fragile environment, hence it cannot afford another political stalemate or instability. Therefore, I kindly urged 3yrs Jotna to exercise restraint by seeking and exhausting legal redress to the police’s decision to deny them a permit in order to maintain peace and security and uphold law and order in our fledgeling democracy.