by Simon Sabally
The Public Order Act of the Gambia does not grant power to any person or constituted body to grant permission for political parties or any group of persons to hold a meeting/rally in private or at a public place. There is no power donated or vested in a person by the Act to grant permission for political parties to hold a rally. Such a power is simply not there. Although the IEC regulates campaigns during the campaign period for public elections.
The only assembly that the Act regulates is PUBLIC PROCESSION which is contained in section 5 of the Act. As a matter of law, the IGP does not have power to grant permission for holding of public procession in all the specified areas such as in the city of Banjul and Kanifing Municipality, areas within the perimeter fence at Banjul International Airport, Janjangbureh, areas within the radius of three kilometres of the market places in Brikama, Sukuta, Gunjur, Lamin, Kaur, Kuntaur and Bansang, and areas within a radius of three kilometres of regional headquarters in Basse and Mansakonko. It is when a public procession is held without permission that the gathering will be unlawful assembly.
Rallies and meetings are different from processions. As a matter of law the Act gave out what constitutes procession from the following statement “prescribe the route…” and “….which any procession may pass.” Therefore the law must be understood.
On the issue of loud speaker, the IGP has power to grant permit for its usage in the City of Banjul and Kanifing Municipality while the Governors or any other person authorized by the President have powers to grant its usage in the regions. Therefore, political parties that do not want to make a procession from a location to their meeting place and do not want to use a public address system can hold their meetings without a permit.
Section 10 gives the President power to publish that an area in the Gambia is a DISTURBED AREA. When that declaration is done then the IGP and Governors or any person authorized by the President can “prohibit, restrict, regulate or control meetings, assemblies, and processions of whatever kind of more than ten persons…)(see. s.10(f)) of the Act. Therefore where such Notice was not made by the President, no person can prohibit or restrict a meeting or assembly in an area that is not declared a disturbed area.