A Gambian civil society organization, #GambiaHasDecided, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning Gambian security authorities’ efforts to silence the group, specifically by removing its billboards.
#GambiaHasDecided was formed after Gambian President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after initially conceding defeat to his opponent, Adama Barrow, who won 45.5 percent of the vote to Mr. Jammeh’s 36.7 percent. Despite mounting pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, and the United Nations, Mr. Jammeh has maintained that he would not step down until a court rules on the appeal he filed contesting the election results.
The Gambian president has since ramped up efforts to silence dissident voices who voted to bring change to the small West African country.
“We are a non-violent and peaceful group exercising our constitutional right of freedom of speech and the freedom to associate,” said Salieu Taal, the group’s chairperson, in the press release. “We are abhorred by the actions and efforts by security personnel and some executive officers, particularly Mr. Bala Jahumpa, in trying to silence our voices, the voices of the Gambian people who voted for change.”
The group explained that its members witnessed security personnel in uniform destroying its posters and billboards promoting democratic reform in The Gambia. The statement emphasized the ruling Gambian government’s hypocrisy in doing so, as it decried the destruction of Mr. Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) posters while simultaneously vandalizing other political groups’ billboards.
“We heard the outgoing President [Jammeh] complain about the vandalization of APRC posters and we did not condone the destruction of any APRC private property. In the same vein, we expect that our property is protected as citizens of The Gambia and our constitutional rights respected,” the group said.
The group consequently called on Mr. Jammeh to urge his security personnel to desist from destroying its posters and other properties.
“Our actions are for the preservation of democracy, which is the only way to ensure peace and stability in our motherland,” the statement concluded.