Media Foundation for West Africa, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the Ghana Chapter of Amnesty International and the Ghana Journalists Association on July 22, 2009 organised a public forum in Accra on the reign of terror by President Jammeh of the Gambia
The objective of the forum was to remind citizens of West Africa of the day that marked The Gambia’s descent into tyranny.
July 22 is celebrated in The Gambia as “Freedom Day” by the authorities. Ironically, Gambians rather continue to suffer untold hardships. They have been subjected to all manner of atrocities including killings, abductions, torture, unlawful arrests and detentions.
The forum is part of a global campaign by Amnesty International and other human rights and free expression advocacy organisations to protest against President Yahya Jammeh’s atrocities and inaction of West African leaders to nip the deteriorating Gambian human rights situation in the bud.
The situation has so worsen that observers now describe The Gambia as the “burial place for human rights”.
Speaker after speaker expressed indignation over the lackadaisical attitude of the sub-regional leaders about the worrying trend in the Gambia, which they said could lead to civil strife and violent conflict, which have bedevilled Africa for more than a decade.
An officer of the MFWA, Mohammed Shardow, presenting an overview of free expression in The Gambia reported that since 1994 there have been as many as 91 cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions. Sixty-four of these arrests occurred between 1994 and 2006 while the past two years have recorded as many as 27 cases.
Akoto Ampaw, a member of the MFWA network of lawyers who returned from a mission in the Gambia attributed The Gambia worsening human rights situation to President Jammeh, who he described after visiting the country as a “thieving businessman”. He said Jammeh is amassing wealth of the Gambians whose population are mostly impoverished.
Ampaw, also a prominent Ghanaian human rights defender wondered why ECOWAS heads must admit a person like Yahya Jammeh in their midst.
On his part, a Gambian journalist gave a revealing testimony depicting the prevailing situation. He said President Jammeh has succeeded in planting fears among citizens. The journalist called on African leaders to show solidarity with Gambians in these difficult times by pressurising the authorities to respect their human rights.