(JollofNews) – Authorities in the Gambia have slapped criminal charges against 13 residents of Foni involved in Friday’s protest against the militarisation of the community.
The protesters are accused (under archaic’ British colonial law) of unlawful assembly, incitement of violence, riot and conspiracy to commit misdemeanor. They denied the allegations and were each given a D500,000 court bail by Magistrate Cham of the Brikama court.
During Friday’s protest in Kanilai, native village of former President Yahya Jammeh, officers of the Senegal led military intervention force in the Gambia fired live ammunition on the protesters, killing one and wounding six.
The Gambia government is far refusing to open an investigation into the incident and the minister of the Interior, Mai Ahmad Fatty, has accused the protesters some of whom he said were from Casamance of taking traditional weapons to the demonstration and engaging in provocative acts against members of the security forces in the area.
He added that the protesters had failed to secure a permit from the Inspector General of Police to organise their protest contrary to the laws of the Gambia and had set fire to tyres, obstructed traffic and caused commotion in the area.
However, both the demonstrators and independent witnesses have denied the allegation, describing it as completely unfounded.
According witnesses, none of the protesters were armed with even a stone at the time of the shooting.
The right to peaceful is guaranteed by the Gambian constitution, but restricted by the country’s Public Order Act introduced by the then colonial government in 1955 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.”
Ironically, while in opposition, both the country’s new Interior and Foreign Affairs ministers have spoken out against the law and have accused the previous regime of Yahya Jammeh of using it to strengthen its grip on power.