RICHARDSON CENTER CONGRATULATES GAMBIA ON HISTORIC ELECTIONS, CALLS FOR RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS, INCLUDING AMERICAN FANTA JAWARA
The Richardson Center for Global Engagement congratulates the Gambian people and President-elect Adama Barrow on yesterday’s successful election. This is an historic election for the Gambian people and a significant milestone for Gambian democracy. We call on President Yahya Jammeh to respect the electoral results and transfer power peacefully.
As President-elect Adama Barrow prepares his administration, political prisoners, including American citizen Fanta Darboe Jawara, who was wrongfully arrested in April, remain behind bars. We call on the President-elect to immediately take steps to free Gambia’s political prisoners and allow Fanta to return to her husband, Ebrima, and daughters, Sarah and Aminata, in Frederick, Maryland.
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 had been in power since taking over in a military coup in 1994. His government was routinely 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.