By Nelson Manneh
A press release from the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) on Friday 26 January 2024 indicates that it has learnt with grave concern, the clemency given to four convicted pedophiles among thirty seven prisoners by President Adama Barrow.
The President exercised the pardon through the powers vested in him under Section 82 (1) (a) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.
The press release, which was signed by Mr Lamin Fatty, the CPA’s National Coordinator, said the four pedophiles were all charged and convicted for rape and sexual abuse of children between the ages of 4 and 14. As a body dedicated to child protection, it expressed its total rejection of the decision to pardon the four convicted individuals and demand that the President rescind his decision.
According to the CPA release, the four convicts are Ousman Baldeh, Momodou Camara, Yankuba Njie and Nfamara Mballow.
‘‘We wish to remind the President and his Government that in a similar pardon in 2018 involving a convicted Norwegian male in the person of Svein Åge Sandåke for sexually abusing six children, the decision was rescinded following a public outcry. We wish to therefore call on the President to exercise the same magnanimity to rescind the release of these four individuals similarly convicted for abusing children,” the CPA said in their press statement.
The Alliance wants to bring the attention of the authorities to the Welfare Principle of Section 3 of the Children’s Act 2005, which provides thus: “The best interest of the child shall be the paramount consideration by any court, institution, person or other body in determining any question concerning a child.”
In view of this principle, the alliance said it is their belief that extending the prerogative of mercy to Ousman Baldeh, Momodou Camara, Yankuba Njie and Nfamara Mballow, who were all found guilty of rape and related offences against children, is a total contradiction of the spirit and aspiration of the above provision. The release said the pardon of these four child rapists further undermines the Government’s obligations under Section 66(1) (a) of the Children’s Act to “safeguard, protect and promote the welfare of children”.
The CPA said it wishes to remind the Government and indeed the rest of society that it does not serve the best interest of children when child violators are taken off the hook.
‘‘Just as we continuously call on individuals to report any cases of child abuse to bring about accountability and greater protection of children, similarly we wish to call on the Government to ensure that those who are arrested, charged, prosecuted and convicted of child abuse, should face the full length of their accountability. Releasing the convicted child abusers and pedophiles only serves to increase the vulnerability of children while weakening law enforcement and justice delivery measures for the protection of children. We wish to therefore remind the Gambia Government of its national, regional and international commitments to the protection of the rights and welfare of children. We urge the Government not to relent in its effort to strengthen national child protection mechanisms through effective law enforcement, investment and greater collaboration with both national and international CSOs, partners and stakeholders. In this regard, we urge President Adama Barrow not to release convicted child rapists,” the CPA concludes.