The Divisional Council of Elders of the Kanifing Municipality, while stating their 100% support for the recent execution of nine death row inmates in the country, affirming that the act falls within the Constitution of The Gambia, have, however, appealed to the Gambian leader to halt further execution of those on death row, to see whether the spate of brutal murders in the country will dwindle.
The elders, who were accompanied to State House by Yankuba Colley, the mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council, relayed the appeal to His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, Thursday through the vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy at a meeting held at her office in State House. They also used the occasion to once again renew their solidarity with the Gambian leader, praising him for his dynamism and love for humanity, among others.
Speaking at the meeting, Ousman E Jobarteh, the secretary general of the Council of Elders KM, disclosed that each of the elders is representing a ward in the division. He said that many of the elders would have loved to be present at the meeting, but could not, due to circumstances beyond their control. He described President Jammeh as a committed leader who is ready to defend the constitution of the country. "To kill your fellow human being unnecessarily is against the first law of nature. Gambians are used to peace and stability, that's where the country is thriving in all sectors," he said, pointing out that even presently there are some states in the US which still have capital punishment.
Samba Loum and Momodou Sanyang, elders representing Faji Kunda and Serrekunda Central respectively, also expressed similar sentiments. They both decried the recent hike in murder cases in the country, saying such is alien to Gambian society. They appealed to President Jammeh to give a grace period to see whether the awful menace will still continue. Loum noted that since the executions took place there have been widespread rumours both within and outside the country. He added that President Jammeh's love for humanity is unquestionable. Also speaking at the meeting, Omar Kebba Jammeh, chairman of Bakau and Salifu Jammeh, another elder, both praised President Jammeh for his dynamism. They stressed that the recent executions were inline with the constitution of The Gambia, which all the citizens approved.
They urged Gambians to continue to nurture peace and stability in the country, while lamenting that the furore that followed the executions is due to the fact that some Gambians are exaggerating the issue. On his part, Yankuba Colley described KMC as the most densely populated area in the country and a place where almost all languages are spoken.
He explained that they came to State House to renew their solidarity with the Gambia leader. His words: "It is the constitution of The Gambia which clearly states death penalty. Since the incident there has been widespread rumour just to distract the authorities. Gambia is a sovereign state which has rule of law that must be safeguarded to the letter. Gambia belongs to all us of and let's continue to nurture the peace and stability the country is renowned for."
Mayor Colley also pointed out that there are other countries that still practice capital punishment but are not criticized, while adding that they came to appeal to President Jammeh to halt the process for the time being to see whether unlawful killings will dwindle. For his part, the Attorney General and minister of Justice, Lamin Jobarteh, commended the elders for their move.
He explained that the Constitution of The Gambia is clear, and that it is a document that was prepared not only for one person, but for a country. "Where your right ends is where someone's right begins," he stated, stressing that the country is governed by a constitution and what the constitution prescribes, if you fail to implement it, it will be seen that you have violated the constitution. The attorney general went on to cite a rape case that occurred in Basse involving a nine-year-old girl, among a host of other gross violations of the law. "If you kill a person you will not be killed on the spot, but will be prosecuted until when proven guilty by a competent court in the country. Legal Aid Agency is also here to support those who cannot afford or hire the services of a lawyer and all these were introduced during President Jammeh regime," he further stated.
Minister Jobarteh also reminded the gathering that President Jammeh has sworn to defend and protect the constitution to the letter. Lamin Waa Juwara, the minister of Regional Administration, Lands and Traditional Rulers, hailed the elders for the move, noting that it demonstrates their love and solidarity with President Jammeh. He said that as a veteran opposition figure who criss-crossed the length and breadth of this country, he could not recall a time in any political forum where they said capital punishment should be removed from the constitution. "So, we all agreed to it as we never discussed it in our political fora. It was approved by all Gambians during the referendum," he added.
Minister Juwara then called on the people to desist from murder, stressing that no soul is better than another. "If you are a Muslim and believe that if you kill someone you should not be killed, then you are not a good Muslim," he further stated.
Ousman Sonko, the minister of Interior expressed similar sentiments. Like other speakers, he said that Gambians should agree that it is the dictates of the Constitution that 'if you kill someone and proven guilty by a competent law court you should be killed'. He added: "Yes, Gambia is so small, but it is widely renowned for its peace and stability. All those sentenced to death are given the chance to appeal against their sentences." He informed the gathering that there was a particular year when violent murder cases climbed to 20 in the country, while expressing his resolve to strengthen community policing in neighbourhoods in order to tackle crime in the country.
He also thanked the elders for helping to dispel widespread rumours that the authorities killed many people other the nine executed on August 26th. The minister for Presidential Affairs, who is also the secretary general and head of the Civil Service, Njogou Bah, hailed the KM elders for their move. He informed the gathering that President Jammeh is always working for the interest of the country and that what happened was not president Jammeh but the dictates of the Constitution of The Gambia.
Minister Bah pointed out that if there is no peace and law in any society people will also kill and use objects to hurt each other. He decried the fact that the execution of the nine convicts generated furore, in spite of the fact that the executed individuals themselves also killed people.
For her part, VP Njie-Saidy said that she wasn't at all surprised by the move of the KM elders. She explained that President Jammeh believes in the country so much, and loves the citizens, citing the just ended Muslims feast of Ramadan, where he gave out countless gifts to Muslims. She stressed that the Gambian leader has sworn to protect and defend the constitution of the country and that 'if he doesn't go by it, Gambians will blame him'.
"This is not a new thing in our society and your move to appeal to President Jammeh to halt implementing so as to see whether unnecessary killing will cease in the country, is what is expected of a good elder. It is not easy but at time you have to take a hard decision. But I want to thank you once again for the foresight," she further stated. She then called for increased community policing so as to combat some of the nefarious acts committed in the country.