Foroyaa has gathered that developments in criminal law regarding speech continue at different levels.

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, meeting at its 48th Ordinary Session, held in Banjul, The Gambia, from 10 – 24 November 2010 did pass a resolution that called on States Parties to repeal criminal defamation laws or insult laws which impede freedom of speech, and to adhere to the provisions of freedom of expression, articulated in the African Charter, the Declaration, and other regional and international instruments.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Liberia led the way in removing from their criminal code the criminalization of speech just before the end of her term. Former Liberian President George Weah finalized the process in 2019 by passing into law the Kamara Abdullai Kamara Act of Press freedom. The law amended chapter 11 of the Penal law of 1978 repealing sections 11.11 on criminal libel against the president, sedition and criminal malevolence.

Despite such developments, Liberia went through a peaceful election where the incumbent lost in the second round and handed over peacefully to his opponent to the credit of the Liberian people. This is a country where war crimes and crimes against humanity of unparalleled brutality took place before President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected to consolidate democracy in the country.

Two presidents are now resting in peace in Liberia after serving their constitutionally established terms and there is peaceful handover of political office twice in less than twenty years.

There is no indication that criminalizing speech is what brings about respect for the state between political opponents and citizens at large.

Speech that cause injuries in terms of image or benefits could be handled through civil suit resulting in naming and shaming wrong doers, apologies and even financial compensation for wrong doing.

The Gambia and Senegal should learn from Liberia and leave legacies worth keeping.

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