Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews) – As we edge towards democracy in the Gambia, there is a noticeable increase in incidences or near minor incidences of political violence.

In my previous articles such as “A Dissection of Political Violence”, in the case of (the arrest and killing of Solo Sandeng, the arrest and unlawful incarceration of the entire leadership of the United Democratic Party (UDP), resulted in the enforcement of the Public Order Act). I have substantively discussed the causes of violence that have mainly hinged on political and economic backgrounds. But more recently, I have noticed that the use of the ‘Public Order Act,’ although arguable, a piece of legislation meant to maintain law and order, is an ignite for political violence.

Noteworthy is the fact that the Public Order Act was introduced in the Gambia as an ordinance for public order by the then colonial government in 1955. The colonial government argued that the aim of the ordinance was to “circumvent those who wish to create a breach of the peace, or to take into themselves powers of control which rest property in the hands of government.”

The truth however was that the public order ordinance was passed to control the indigenous Gambian who at that time was fighting for independence from the British Colonialists. The ordinance was also an assurance to the mainly white settlers that the colonial government would firmly deal with African nationalist responsible for pro-independence, pro-human rights demonstrations.

Currently, Gambians and especially the knowledgeable ones should ask themselves if it is necessary and democratic to have outdated laws such as the Public Order Act. This piece of legislation is not on controversial, problematic, oppressive to some people’s freedom of assembly, movement and expression. The truth about this is that it is a tool of oppression utilized by the government of the day.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

The author is founder and former managing editor of The Independent, the Gambia’s only private newspaper before it was banned by the government in 2005. He was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, a 2007 Nieman fellow and is the author of Delayed Democracy: How Press Freedom Collapsed in Gambia published in 2013.