What the Senegalese Media Says About Recent Events in Gambia

IMG-20160425-WA0000Events in the Gambia, meaning the bloody repression of the opposition UDP, the alleged cold-bloody murder of its youth leader Mr. Solo Sandeng and the arrest, detention and arraigning of its leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe , the whole party executive and scores of other supporters comes at an interesting time of coincidences. It occurred almost exactly a year after the United States government and that of Senegal signed an eye-brow-raising agreement to be sharing information and intelligence on developments in The Gambia. A second coincidence is that it came at a time when relations between the two Senegambian states is at an all-time low. And thirdly, it came just three months after Senegalese president Macky Sall became the ECOWAS leader. It is like one of those ancient Baghdadi Thousand And One Stories, so full of coincidences that it is hard to believe. Even the Gambian events themselves are full of rumors, contradictory versions, speculations all because information on the events themselves is being managed by a state long known for its Soviet-style lies, secrecy and deception. Few Gambians take the official word without a pinch of salt.

When news of Solo Sandeng’s murder started seeping out into the open many also said that Teranga FM radio boss Alhagy Ceesay had also died in detention. But on Friday 22nd April Senegalese news media outlets including the on-line Seneweb wrote that Alhagy Ceesay was in fact helped to escape from the Sir Edward Francis Small Hospital in Banjul in the chaos and confusion that engulfed Banjul and environs during the April 14 events.  Family members in both Sinchu Alhagy and in the Serekunda area of London would not talk about it but they seem so relaxed that one tends to believe in the Senegalese version. But a Kaironews investigative reporter who spoke to neighbors in both places heard no one speak of visiting police officials in search of the radio journalist since April 14 2016. So what can one believe? Is it even true that Solo Sandeng is dead?  It was not until Saturday 23rd April that GRTS radio and television, asking the public to help with information, that Alhagy Ceesay had escaped from the hospital where he had been treated.

The defense team for Darboe and his co-accused, led by Lawyer Antouman Gaye, on Friday asked for a postponement until the things are “regularized,” saying that there are some names on list of those charged who were not with them in the courtroom that day and that there some arraigned in court but whose names were on the list of those charged. When asked by the High Court judge Justice O. Ottaba asked for clarification of the obvious discrepancy, Director of Public Prosecution S.H. Barkum said he really did not know how to clarify it and was thus not contesting the defense request. But the confusion seemed to grip even the court itself as it was not clear whether proceedings will continue on Monday or if it will be when things are “regularized.” One lay man, but militant UDP supporter told me after that what Gaye and the others really mean with the “regularization” is the whereabouts of five persons, including Sandeng himself, who were not present in court. But I queried, Sandeng’s name was not on the published charge-lists. “Well go ask the paras, where Sandeng and the other four are” he fired back.

Since the Gambian authorities themselves seem to be so overwhelmed by the weight of the April 14th and 16th events and their Senegalese counterparts seem more sober and collected I decided to have a look at what their media outlets are saying. After all their security forces are better trained, more disciplined and they are in cohorts with the American CIA, by far a better intelligence set up. And there is growing pressures for President Macky Sall to intervene to try to stop the repression in a neighboring country with almost the same ethnic mix and many family members living on each sides of the borders. Macky Sall in fact last year sent Senegalese troops all the way to far-away Yemen. On Friday 22nd April, after the weekly prayers thousands gathered in Dakar to display solidarity with the Gambian people and to call for release of the detainees and for electoral reforms.  Held at the Obelisk Palace in Dakar, it was the biggest of its type in Senegal and was organized by a consortium of organizations including Amnesty International, the African Assembly for human rights (RADDHO), the Senegalese Human Rights League (LSDH), the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR), the Forum of litigants, Article 19 and other human rights organizations.

Among the speakers at the huge protest gathering at the Obelisk Place in Dakar were Seydi Gassama, Amnesty International, Fatou Diadhiou Article 19, Alioune Tine, Fadel Barro of Y’en Amar (or roughly Enough is Enough)and other human rights groups who came to show their solidarity with the distressed Gambian people. To condemn the bloody repression of peaceful demonstrations

last week in the Gambia. According to Seydi Gassama, “This April 21st , our organizations have learned that 37 members of the UDP including the leader Oussainou Darboe were presented arraigned before the court and charged with unlawful assembly, incitement to violence, unlicensed demonstration, interference with traffic and disruption of public order. What is happening in Gambia is unacceptable. Macky Sall must break the silence and tell the truth toYaya Jammeh, enough is enough. ECOWAS should not stop on statements, but must act, “he said. In the joint statement, the organizations defending human rights and civil society all have “firmly believe that Sandeng Solo was tortured to death. Several other protesters were also tortured by elements of the security forces. ” “The numbers that we are nearly a hundred leaders not included. We say no to terror, stop the reign of fear, “says Seydi Gassama.

 

 

Protest rally for Gambia at the Obelisk Palace, Dakar, April 22nd 2016

The Senegalese paper Survey reported the same day, Friday, that “Ordered out from his prison cell on Wednesday to be charged with disturbing public order, among other charges, the leader of the main Gambian opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) Ousainou Darboe, appeared in front of a judge at the High Court Banjul Thursday morning. Ousainou Darboe once more rejected for the second time to be released. ” “Ousainou Darboe demanded that Sandeng Solo, dead or alive, is returned to his family. He also demanded that Fatoumata Jawara and Nogoi Njie, and all those arrested during the demonstrations organized by his party on 14th and 16th April, are first released before he accepts any such offer by the judge. A request which was naturally rejected by the judge of the High Court in Banjul,” the Survey continued. “A magistrate made the same offer of release to Fanta Darboe, the daughter of Ousainou Darboe, arrested last Saturday along with his father. Fanta Darboe who is also a US citizen rejected the offer preferring to match his father’s firm position,” the newspaper notes. “In a heated atmosphere marked by the massive presence of militants of UDP, security forces, armed to the teeth, blocked the entrance to the court. Monday, April 25th was chosen for a first hearing Ousainou Darboe . Very few people were allowed into the courtroom. Among them diplomats accredited to Banjul, to observe the proceedings.

That was the media outlet called Survey. On that same Friday 22nd April, Lalla Ndiaye wrote on Seneweb that : “The United States calls on the Gambian government to comply with international conventions of UN rights and respect for political and civil rights and peaceful assembly, “noted John Kirby, spokesman for the Department of Defense.”

 

But perhaps a more insightful contribution was one by one Mamadou T. Diatta-Lequotidien – Webnews : “It is with great tact that the regime of President Macky Sall is currently managing the crisis prevailing in the axis Dakar-Banjul. Difficult to guess the position of the Senegalese head of State on the issue when some invite him to get tough in the place of the “terror” of Banjul. His dual Senegalese leader and current chairman of Ecowas illustrates the delicacy of the posture adopted by President Macky Sall. He seems to opt for secret diplomacy to reach a happy ending. It is difficult in a crisis like the one through which the Senegalese-Gambian relations is going to guess the position of Dakar. On closer inspection, one is inclined to think that President Macky Sall is in a delicate position that should be at two levels: it is both head of state of Senegal and President of the economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), whose members both Senegal and Gambia are. Seen from Dakar by the Senegalese authorities, acts posed by the “crazy” Banjul do not encourage too much forced replica. Although states have only interests, as argued loudly by General Charles de Gaulle. It takes tact, these day and age, to avoid going to confrontation. If the President Sall openly accept his views on the current tensions between Banjul and Dakar, a violent tone of his remarks expose his compatriots in Gambian soil. As if it exudes a radical position on behalf of the Member States of ECOWAS, it could be seen by the neighbor Gambia as a bias on the part of an officer called to be equidistant from the member countries of the organization under -regional. Some call for more firmness from the Senegalese head of state. But should we remember, it did not fail to do shows when “terror” of Kanilaye had executed in 2012 many of our compatriots condemned to death by the Gambian justice. Obviously, Macky Sall seems to opt for the underground diplomacy by emphasizing his concern for the sustainability of good neighborly relations born of age-old ties between the two countries. The saying does not he say that we can not choose your neighbors. And the realities of the third millennium are far from being the same as those of the 80s that led to a strong intervention of Dakar, after the coup of Koukoye Samba Sanyang against Gambian President then Daouda Diawara. A strategy the Senegalese seem to rely on more is using the durability of the current Transgambienne blockade would help more economically isolate and weaken   Yahya Jammeh and let him be more vulnerable to all-out rebellion of the Gambian people . There is no doubt that Dakar is determined to the raise the stakes.

 

According to Amadou Mbodji – Lequotidien.” One Ibrahima Ndiaye otherwise known as “Chita”, who is a former coach and manager of the Senegalese national beach soccer team who has said that a sister of his, Nogaye Ndiaye who was also not only murder along with Solo Sandeng but also raped before by members of the Gambian security forces. Ibrahima Ndiaye “Chita” and his family in Dakar are now claiming for the remains of their sister for decent burial.” Ibrahima Ndiaye was quoted saying, “Nogaye Ndiaye is my sister, we come from the same father. Bakary Ndiaye is our father. ”

Before being made manager and coach of the national beach soccer team Chita was an international footballer who played with a Police team. He learned of the death of his sister from the media. The late Nogaye Ndiaye was a Senegalese national born in Senegal of a Senegalese father and a Gambian mother. She moved to join her mum in The Gambia after the passing away of the father when she was just six years old. “Chita” informed the press that it was not fully two months when Nogaye Ndiaye visited Chita in Ouakam. Chita concluded in a telephone interview on Friday 22nd April “If it is to defend the Gambia that her life was sacrificed, we are proud,” argued former footballer. Nogaye Ndiaye was killed while Fatou Camara Fatou Diawara and were raped by security officers, according to information relayed recently by the media.”

According to Seneweb, on Saturday, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Group Benno Bokk Yakaar Moustapha Diakhate,” seems to be tired of the Gambian President and his acts. “We condemn with the greatest firmness, the terror Yaya Jammeh did to his people. Gambia and Senegal have one problem which is called Yaya Jammeh. It is time to mobilize to get rid of him. I call for his departure.“And we must now consider the prospect of Gambia without Yahya Jammeh, “he confided in the columns of The Daily As of this Saturday, April 23, 2016. To this end, he urged the relevant authorities to take their responsibilities. “We call on the African Union and ECOWAS to require Yaya Jammeh to reinforce the African Charter of Human Rights. We also want to tell our Gambian brothers that we will always be by their side. It is time to resolve the issue Yaya Jammeh and we cannot let him continue to torment his people. The tyrant cannot be part of the future of the Gambia, “he insists.”

On Wednesday 24th April Amnesty International section’s Director in Dakar, Seydi Gassama, on Sunday on Sentv, a privately owned station to expose Yahya Jammeh’s support for the separatist rebels in Senegal’s troublesome southern province and blamed the Gambian leader for providing them with arms and ammunitions.

Dakarpost on Monday April 25t reported that: “President Yahya Jammeh at the time of first demonstrations, was traveling in Turkey where the conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). He returned to Banjul Saturday, April 16, 2016, a day earlier than expected. In a statement read on Gambian television, he called on the international community not to interfere with internal political issues in Gambia. In response, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged an investigation into the deaths of protesters and demanded the release of those arrested. The online paper, Senejet on Monday 25th April reported: “We cannot stand idly by while a dictator massacring his people. ” Comments made by Jean Paul Dias, in the columns of the newspaper Popular. The leader of the centrist Bloc Gaïndé (Beg) underestimates the attitude of the Senegalese authorities to the Gambian crisis. “If there’s one thing that Senegal should be able to do is to recall its ambassador to protest against the treatment that Gambian President did to his people,” he advised. Father Dias said he did not understand the complex that feed the Senegalese regimes vis-à-vis the Gambia “to be continued.
 

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