|President Adama Barrow|
After a week of much ado about nothing, the government of Adama Barrow has decided to allow the #OccupyWestfield group to protest at the Westfield Junction, a decision that should have been made last week to avoid the unnecessary rancor and vacillations that ensued.
However, the decision was finally taken by Hon. Ba Tambadou, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who has been been selected by President Barrow to oversee the Interior Ministry while a substantive holder of the post is identified and appointed. Hon. Mai Fatty’s dismissal is unfortunate but as the saying goes in these parts it comes with the territory. Ministers serve at the pleasure of the president and thus can be removed without offering reason(s) for the removal. That is the prerogative of the President. It is not a right but a privilege to serve in a cabinet post.
Regarding the protests, Mr. Alieu Bah of #OccupyWestfield speaking to us from Banjul confirmed that permission has been granted for his group to protest at the Westfield Junction on Sunday 12th November from 3PM – 6PM.
To peacefully protest in a democracy is a right that must not be infringed.
The decision is a welcome relief that will serve as an outlet for pent up frustrations for a number of our youth – an important constituents of the Coalition – frustrations resulting from the lack of progress in the provision of reliable supply of electricity, as seen from their vantage point.
Yes, we acknowledge the promises made by government and the efforts made for the realization of those promises which should not preempt the inherent right of every Gambian to publicly and peacefully express his or her dissatisfaction or otherwise without fear of arrest or worse.
The government has shown, through action, that reasons advanced by the former Interior Minister that resulted in his decision to deny #OccupyWestfield permit were, in our view, without basis.
The refusal to allow the protest to proceed projected weakness and not confidence in our security forces to maintain order at all times. It was also a grave mistake for the paramilitary forces to be on high alert and in full battle gear thus escalating a problem to unnecessary levels. Let us leave such knee jerk reactions to dictators.
Today, we are all democrats.
President Barrow’s government should consider memorializing Solo Sandeng in naming the Westfield Junction in honor of the UDP youth leader and to designate it as a zone for Gambians to peacefully assemble to show their opposition to or support of issues they consider to be essential to contributing to a stable and prosperous society.
The Gambia needs a clean break from it dictatorial past by throwing away the Jammeh playbook. Many Gambians will lend support to this or any other effort that will solidify our democratic gains. These young people are the future of the country and must be seen as a reservoir of hope for the future of the country and not as a source of potential conflict and instability.