The Secretarial and members of the West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN) received with dismay a threat against human rights activist Mr. Madi Jobarteh from President Adama Barrow of the Republic of Gambia. President Barrow was addressing Banjul Muslim Elders as part of the tradition on Muslim Eid day on Monday 2nd May 2022, at State House. President Barrow personally attacked and threatens to deal with Mr. Jobarteh if he tries to incite violence and civil unrest in the Gambia.
Speaking in Wollof local dialect, President Barrow said, “There are people who are ready to suffocate and create problems for the government by criticizing and inciting violence against the State. One among them is Madi Jobarteh, he is part of the people that are out to burn this country. He only wanted to see violence in this country. Everybody should be mindful of him. I have never made any comments about him on any platform and he said he is part of the civil society but only bent on fanning violence in the country. It is the Journalists that are given him the platform to express his desire for incitement against the state and if anyone is helping him you are not helping the country. I will tell him personally if anyone aids him you are not helping the state. My government will take a bold stand on him and we will look into his affairs very well. A government cannot be run like that allowing anyone to burn down the country and you are let go. We have been very tolerant about most of his unlawful utterances”
Madi Jobarteh is a human rights activist and focuses on promoting democracy and human rights in the Gambia. He is the deputy Director Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in the Gambia (TANGO), a member of the Foundation for Legal Aid, Research and Empowerment (FLARE). Mr. Jobarteh is currently the country’s representative for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
Mr. Jobarteh, a strong critic of the government of the Gambia on rights violations was first arrested on 30th June 2020 and detained for hours at Kairaba Police station in Serrekunda, in relation to a statement he made during “Black Lives Matter” protest on 27th June 2020 in front of the US embassy. Mr. Jobarteh challenged the government for failure to act and investigate the killings of Gambian citizens Haruna Jatta, Ousman Darboe and Kebba Secka, reportedly killed by Gambian security officers. Jobarteh was charged with ‘false information and broadcasting’ under the Criminal Code, which is punishable with a prison sentence of six months to five years or a fine of 500 to 50,000 Dalasis (10 to 1000 USD). He was released on bail and charges against were dropped after a range of public condemnation.
Again o n 29th April 2022, Madi received a letter from the lawyers of Minister of Local Government, Lands and Regional Affairs now Minister for Fisheries, Mr. Musa Drammeh accusing Madi of defaming their client in an article he published on his facebook page on 20th April 2022 titled, ‘Bring Back Our Lands! Sack and Prosecute Minister Musa Drammeh”.
Mr. Jobarteh has been an ardent advocate for Human Rights and very vocal on matters of national interest. The personal attack and threat on him by the head of state came a few days ago when on a TV talk show Madi expressed the need for the government to tackle corruption and do away with people who have participated in violation of rights of Gambians for 22 years. He also labeled the current government as corrupt and unfocused therefore citizens should take to the streets to denounce the blatant corruption of the day.
Recently President Barrow accused Gambia Journalists of bias prompting his party supporters to physically manhandle and harass Journalists. In October 2021 during the presidential campaign President Barrow vowed if elected will order the Inspector General of Police not issue protest and political rally permits to any of his perceived opponents.
WAHRDN and its’ partners deem the personal attack on the person of Mr. Jobarteh as a threat and does not take the comments lightly. For this kind of statement to come from a sitting head of state is very unfortunate and worrisome. The secretariat and its partners are very concerned about the physical safety of Mr. Jobarteh, his immediate family and property.
We therefore call on President Adama Barrow and all the security agents of the Gambia to make sure the safety of Mr. Jobarteh is guaranteed and that of his family and property.
WAHRDN is also concerned about the remarks made by the president towards the media thus labeling them as part of those inciting Gambians and aiding and abetting Mr. Jobarteh on his rampage against the state.
We demanded that the government of the Gambia and all stakeholders to provide and promote freedom of speech and a vibrant environment for the media to operate.
West African Human Rights defenders Network
WAHRDN, Lome, Togo