Dakar, 5 June 2016- A West African grouping of faith based, rights, academic, women and youth organisations have urged the ECOWAS heads of state and government to hold The Government of the Gambia, under the leadership of President Yaya Jammeh, to account over the systematic and wonton violations of the region’s democracy and governance principles. The group, led by the West African Civil Society Forum- WACSOF, stated that ECOWAS should not tolerate nor allow the government of the Gambia’s continued position to ignore the calls for reforms by its peers, civil society and the international community. They said that The Gambia government’s determination to continue to violate the rights of its own citizens through the rule of terror, and instilling fear within the general public, as well as the persistent and systematic infractions of rules of the institutions and protocols it has vowed to respect, including the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy, must not go unpunished.
The call comes as the regional body is due to meet at its 49th Ordinary Session in Dakar, Senegal. The group stated that The Gambia is the only country within ECOWAS that has regressed drastically in its governance and rule of law- from the days of the 1980s when Gambia was seen as a bastion of democracy and rule of law on the whole continent to a point where it was rewarded with hosting the ACHPR, to now a pariah state where its citizen’s live in fear due to the unconscionable brutality meted out to its citizens on a daily basis, the most recent of which was on 14 and 16 April 2016.
The group raised the alarm over rapid deterioration of rule of law, further erosion of human rights, enforced disappearances, arrests of political party opposition, torture, illegal detention and extra judicial executions, rape and sexual violence against women, as well as wanton abuse of executive power in The Gambia. And said that this indicated that the country is presided over by an undemocratic regime, where impunity and terror are firmly entrenched.
In a strongly worded document titled: “CSF II: Resolution adopted at the WACSOF forum”, the group stated that the recent acts of illegal and arbitrary arrests, torture, physical and sexual violence against protesters including women, and continued threats by the Government of the Gambia on its population, were unacceptable and alien to ECOWAS’s aspirations of promoting and protecting the principles contained in the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance namely: Constitutional Convergence Principles; Free and Fair Elections; specifically- popular participation in decision-making, strict adherence to democratic principles and decentralization of power at all levels of governance. The group cited the recent Electoral Amendment Act, designed to price out political opposition from competing in elections whichmakes it cost prohibitive for aspiring candidates to compete for public office, especially the most vulnerable, youth and women.
They called o ECOWAS to: Call The Gambia to comply with its obligations as a member state and align with the normative regional frameworks and respect the ECOWAS Court rulings, and apply appropriate measures to state party violations, according to its own rules of membership and regional treaty, Article 77 of the ECOWAs Revised Treaty, and 45 of the Supplementary Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy.”
Civil Society Forum II Gambia- CSF II is the second series of conferences on and about governance, rule of law and democracy in The Gambia. CSF II titled: Fading Fears and Rising Resistance was held on the 1-2 June 2016, in Dakar Senegal. Organizers are a coalition of non-state actors which include: African youth and gender activists; academics; lawyers; advocates; religious leaders; regional and international human rights organizations and other independent entities; parliamentarians. It is convened by the Coalition for Change Gambia-CCG and supported by Open Society Foundations’ Africa Regional Office.
West African Civil Society Forum- WACSOF serves as a receptacle for civil society organizations feeding in to the ECOWAS System processes, and empowers them to exploit the public space at the National and Regional levels, in order for civil society to contribute to an integrated, stable and developed regional community. WACSOF’s mission is therefore to create the avenues through which CSOs can more constructively engage with the authorities at the national levels as well as the Institutions of the ECOWAS System. WACSOF has membership and country representatives in: Benin; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde; Cote D’Voire; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; and Liberia.
Coalition for Change Gambia-CCG – a civil, human and political rights organization which brings together a cross-section of the Gambian community at home and abroad, was launched in April 2011. The group is a non-partisan organization established to challenge the dictatorship and restore basic freedoms in The Gambia through non-violent action.