Fear in The Gambia Before Elections

RICHARDSON CENTER CALLS FOR INCREASED INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION ON THE GAMBIA FOLLOWING REPORTS OF IMPENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST POLITICAL PRISONERS

The life of Frederick, Maryland mother Fanta Darboe Jawara, who was beaten and wrongfully arrested in April and sentenced to three years in prison on July 20, imperiled


New York, NY  – The following is a quote from Governor Bill Richardson, the head of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement:

Tomorrow Gambia will hold its tenth presidential election since achieving independence in 1970. Yahya Jammeh has run the country for the past 22 years and there are strong indications that the public – if allowed to vote freely and fairly – will elect to remove him from office. Credible sources have indicated that should Jammeh lose the presidency, he will retaliate against Ousainou Darboe, the opposition leader that he has detained since mid-April, and those who were arrested with him – this includes innocent bystander and American citizen Fanta Darboe Jawara, a resident of Frederick, Maryland.

“The Richardson Center for Global Engagement strongly condemns any violence against Ms. Jawara and other political prisoners, and urges the international community to remain vigilant as the election bears out tomorrow. It is the responsibility of President Jammeh to respect the electoral outcome and ensure that voters do not face any retribution. Fanta Jawara was wrongfully arrested and convicted over six months ago. It’s past time to bring her home and reunite her with her family.”

BACKGROUND ON FANTA DARBOE JAWARA

Fanta Darboe Jawara traveled to The Gambia in early April to visit her extended family for the first time in eleven years to attend an annual prayer service in her village. On April 16 – just two days before she was scheduled to return to her teenage daughters and husband in Frederick, Maryland – she was on the street when a protest erupted over the death of a young opposition leader, Solo Sandeng, who died mysteriously after being arrested two days prior. Gambian police fired tear gas at the crowd and arrested the protest leaders, participants, and bystanders, including Fanta. While many of the innocent onlookers were released, Fanta was sent to the notorious Mile Two prison, which was targeted in a recent United Nations report and where freed prisoners report sleeping on hard, concrete floors and being fed cornmeal mixed with dirt.

On July 20, 2016 Fanta and seventeen others, including opposition leader Ousainou Darboe, were sentenced to three years in prison on several charges, including unlawful assembly, incitement to violence, and conspiracy. Following the conviction, Fanta has been held in Mile Two.

President Jammeh has been in power since taking over in a military coup in 1994. His government has been accused of gross violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests.  Media freedom and freedom of speech are not respected, and harassment of journalists has been widely reported.

ABOUT THE RICHARDSON CENTER FOR GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT

The Richardson Center for Global Engagement promotes global peace and dialogue by identifying and working on areas of opportunity for engagement and citizen diplomacy with countries and communities not usually open to more formal diplomatic channels. Led by Bill Richardson, former Congressman, UN Ambassador, U.S. Energy Secretary, and Governor, the Center helps families, organizations, and world leaders mediate prisoner releases and international conflicts in areas of the world where others refuse to negotiate.

 

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