By Madi Jobarteh
The Gambia Government under Pres. Adama Barrow and his Interior Minister and the IGP must be held to account for the deaths of citizens in Faraba. The statement by the Interior Minister and the IGP that they did not give orders to paramilitary officers to shoot is misleading and inadequate ad cannot be used for their defence. The fact that live rounds were issued to these officers in the first place means they were required to use them and they did use them. Therefore the IGP cannot absolve himself of responsibility.
The PIU is a disciplined force under the command and control of the IGP who is under the direction and management of the Interior Minister. The deployment of PIU personnel including the arms they carry are not the choice of the individual officers but from their high command based on operational requirements. Therefore the fact that PIU officers were deployed to Faraba and provided guns and live bullets indicates that the decision came from their high command which is under the IGP and the Interior Minister.
For that matter the IGP must take full responsibility for the use of live rounds in Faraba. If they did not intend to have the PIU officers shoot then they would not have given them guns with live rounds. The use of live rounds by PIU officers is not unprecedented as we can vividly recall how they used live rounds in April 2000 to massacre Gambian schoolchildren. The PIU has been notorious for the use of force and violence on Gambian citizens as we saw how they manhandled Solo and fellow patriots when they protested on 14 April 2016. Therefore the PIU has a clear history and policy to use violence against Gambians which the IGP is fully aware of.
President Adama Barrow must therefore hold his IGP and Interior Minister fully accountable for the deaths and injuries in Faraba by deploying a notorious force known for their brutality. The failure of the Gambia Government to effect necessary system change within the security sector particularly in the PIU since January 2017 itself calls into question the leadership and commitment of this Government to protect the fundamental human rights of citizens. The time has come to suspend or disband the PIU for a thorough and proper reform of that institution is conducted.
In light of the above the National Assembly must therefore institute an immediate open public hearing to be broadcast on national radio and television so that Gambians can hear and see direct and undiluted facts of the incident from the horses’ mouths. Public officials and security officers who gave orders and executed those orders including those who allowed PIU officers to carry armed guns must be held to account.
The National Assembly must also investigate the way and manner mining license was issued to a businessman to operate in Faraba when there has been no general consensus among the people. The Gambia Government must understand that it has no absolute and exclusive power or authority to dispense off the land and natural resources of communities just because it thinks it is the Government or that there is law to back such decision.
Communities also have rights to their environment equally and such environment and its resources cannot just be taken away from them by a government regardless. Therefore the Government must not take any action or decision that seeks to threaten the social, economic, cultural and environmental rights of citizens.
For The Gambia Our Homeland.