By: Barrister Famara Singhateh
After carefully examining the video from Alhagie Bora on Kerr Fatou media, still the Gambia Police Force’s legal basis for their actions remains unclear, despite the authority they have under Gambian law to invite individuals for questioning. However, our feelings of inconsistent and unreasonable application of these laws is a concern and must be addressed promptly. The current Inspector General of Police (IGP) is failing to meet the expectations of a police officer, which is a concern for the reputation of the Gambian people.
Freedom of speech should never be curtailed to suit the whims of those in power. Alhagie Bora’s discussion in the video focused on non-military and constitutional coups in Africa, using Senegal as an example. He also highlighted the arrest of potential protesters during President Macky’s visit to Gambia and emphasized the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. Bora has every right to express his disappointment with the authorities, including criticizing the IGP and the President. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right that should never be suppressed. It is important to condemn any actions that infringe upon the rights of citizens.
Despite being aware of the law, the authorities selectively operate according to their convenience, which can be considered unlawful. This inconsistency in adherence to the constitution and protecting citizens’ rights is concerning. Our public servants must be reminded that they are subject to the law and should act accordingly.
I fully support Bora and his exercise of the right to express his opinions. It is crucial that he is allowed to voice his thoughts freely within the threshold accommodated by the law without facing any repercussions. Our constitution guarantees this fundamental provision, which should be respected by all. Building a society that upholds and respects the rights and freedoms of its citizens should be our goal.
The citizens of The Gambia will closely watch the outcome of this case, along with similar incidents in the past and of course in the future. Their assessment of the police force’s capacity and effectiveness will be based on how such cases are handled. It is essential to emphasize that this observation is not meant to undermine the security of the country, but rather to reinforce the credibility and integrity of the police institution. The citizens will continue to support the Gambia Police Force, with the expectation that law enforcement officials operate within the boundaries set by the constitution.
The importance of an efficient and effective police force goes beyond maintaining law and order. It also enhances public trust and confidence in the government and justice system. When citizens perceive the police as reliable and trustworthy, they are more likely to cooperate, report crimes, and actively participate in creating a safer society. Policing fosters a sense of community, empowering citizens to play an active role in crime prevention and collaborate with law enforcement agencies.
In any country, policing is a complex and multidimensional task that requires continuous professional development and adaptation to evolving threats and human rights challenges. Police officers must possess a diverse skillset, including effective communication and emotional intelligence. They need to remain impartial, unbiased, and respectful in dealing with diverse Gambian communities and upholding the principles of fairness and justice.
While the majority of police officers are dedicated public servants doing an exemplary job, allegations of cases of discriminate treatment of cases have raised concerns among citizens. We ask of the Police IGP TO RELEASE THE COMEDIAN, step up and be seen in his actions reasonable, impartial and foster a culture of accountability, transparency, and treating every case impartially.
Finally, I wish to draw the attention of the IGP and his command on this piece of advice. That, in the context of the notion that governments come and go but the state remains, it is important to understand that governments are temporary administrations that change over time through elections or other political processes. In contrast, the state represents the enduring framework of governance and the underlying system that persists despite changes in government.
The police, acting on behalf of the state, play a crucial role in maintaining law and order, regardless of the specific government in power at any given time. They serve as a constant presence, enforcing the laws and regulations established by the state’s legislative bodies and upholding public safety. Their mandate is not tied to any particular government or political ideology but rather to the general welfare and security of the state’s citizens.
This distinction is significant because even when governments change, the state endures, and the police continue their duty to uphold law and order. The police force, as an institution, represents the continuity of the state’s authority, regardless of the shifting political landscape. They work independently from the day-to-day operations of any particular government and their role extends beyond the transient nature of political administrations.
Author: Barrister, Famara Singhateh, Head of West Africa Desk, A-LAW INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM, Antwerp, Belgium