Reports of three people killed, while two radio stations taken off air
"Yesterday's crackdown on protesters had alarming echoes of Gambia's brutal past" - Marta Colomer
The Gambian authorities have arrested 137 people and suspended two radio stations following clashes between security forces and protesters in the country yesterday.
Violence erupted in the outskirts of the Gambian capital Banjul, where activists from "Three Years Jotna movement" (Three Years Enough) had planned a peaceful protest calling for President Adama Barrow to step down after three years in office.
The security forces used tear gas to disperse protesters who responded by throwing stones. Authorities also banned the "Three Years Jotna movement" and arrested its leader.
Medical officials have reported that three people were killed, and many others injured. The authorities claimed there were no fatalities.
Marta Colomer, Amnesty International's Acting Deputy Director for West and Central Africa, said:
"Yesterday's crackdown on protesters had alarming echoes of Gambia's brutal past.
"There have been some significant improvements in the country's human rights record since President Adama Barrow came to power, but the use of excessive force by security forces to disperse protesters risks fuelling tensions and steering Gambia back to dark days of repression.
"The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest. We also call on them to reopen the radio stations they closed, and release the journalists detained.
"President Adama Barrow must not forget his significant promises to improve Gambia's human rights situation. He must ensure that journalists are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal, and immediately lift the ban imposed on civil society organisations."
"Three Years Jotna movement" planned a protest against President Barrow's decision to stay in office for five years. When he took office in 2017, Barrow pledged to step down after three.
The protest was at first authorised but later banned. According to reports, the demonstration turned violent when protesters tried to get closer to the city centre.
The authorities announced the suspension of two radio stations - Brikama-based Home Digital FM and Tallinding Kunjang-based King FM - pending the outcome of police investigations into alleged license violations. The Government claimed that the "two FM stations have demonstrated notoriety for peddling incendiary messages and allowing their media to be used as platforms for inciting violence, fear-mongering and live broadcasts urging Gambians to join Jotna demonstrators all calculated to threaten the security and safety of The Gambia".