Opinion: Scare in air
Witten by Basidia M Drammeh:
With 3 yrs Jotna set to stage its much-vaunted protest tomorrow, an atmosphere of anxiety and anticipation has gripped the nation amid uncertainty and anxiety. Reports have emerged that markets were unusually congested in recent days with shoppers and that many are planning to stay away from work in fear of the worst. Images have equally emerged of heavily armed military police taking position in case of any eventuality.
The Group has recently secured a permit to go ahead with its planned demonstration to press its demand for the Gambian leader to step down in January in fulfillment of the 2016 Coalition agreement.
I believe the Government has partly contributed to the tense atmosphere in the build-up to the protest, by stocking fear about the Group even though the 3 yrs Jotna officials have always maintained their commitment to peace and stability. The culture of peaceful protest must be nurtured and encouraged through civic education. whilst elsewhere protests are a daily occurrence, the mere mention of "protest" causes pandemonium in the Gambia.
While the Group is within its constitutional right to assemble, protest and articulate its grievances, it’s paramount that this right is exercised within the ambit of the law whereby lives and properties must be protected.
On the other hand, the security forces that have been gearing up for this day for months must exercise maximum restraint in dealing with the crowds. Gambia’s paramilitary forces have been notorious for being trigger-happy and for using excessive power in cracking down on protests. Faraba, Busumbala, Brikama and Serrekunda proetests are fresh in mind.
I hereby appeal to all stakeholders to maintain peace and abide by law and order. May Allah bless the Gambia and its peace-loving people.
Basidia M Drammeh
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