By Yankuba Jallow
The Gambia Police Force (GPF) has finally issued the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) a permit to hold their planned rallies in the Upper River Region.
The party wrote to the police on the 5th December 2019 requesting permit to hold two rallies in Jimara and Tumana constituencies which the police refused. The police said their refusal to issue the party with a permit was as a result of their constraint with personnel, adding that December 2019 and January 2020 are peak periods, although they haven’t told what makes these two months peak periods. The police said during the peak period they will be focused mainly on providing security to Gambians.
The police came under strong criticisms after they deprived GDC of permit to hold the rallies on December 14 and 15 in Tumana and Jimara.
On Wednesday, the GDC leader Mamma Kandeh criticized the police for denying them permit saying the country is creeping towards dictatorship.
The party reacted to the refusal by the police saying the reasons were not sufficient and therefore they have the right to hold the rally. They said the GPF’s decision not to issue permit to the political parties to carry on with their political activities during their purported ‘Peak Period’ was not communicated.
The party wrote another permit request on Wednesday, 11th December 2019 but this time it was granted. Therefore, GDC will proceed to hold their meetings in these two areas as scheduled because they have been issued permit to do so.
Samba P. Jallow of GDC said: “The political pressure actually got hard on them and so, they capitulated on their decision and now the GDC is granted permit to hold their rallies in Toumana and Jimara. This is a victory to our hard-earned democracy. What this action typifies, is that our beloved country isn’t living in a democracy by name only, but by action and this is hopeful and gratifying.”
The conditions of the permits are; both rallies shall be held between 7 pm to 9:30 pm, they must refrain from using abusive, threatening or insulting words and they should refrain from any behaviour with intent to provoke breach of peace.
In the Gambia, the laws are such that any group or party that wants to hold a meeting with the use of loudspeakers is required to obtain a permit from the police without which the organizers will be considered acting unlawfully. The police have the discretion to either issue the permit or not. This law has been critiqued by several human rights activists to be a bad law. The constitutionality of this provision of the Public Order Act was challenged by Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and 18 others at the Supreme Court of the Gambia, but the court held that it is constitutional under Section 25 of the Constitution.