Barrow’s Crackdown on Protesters Rolls Back Gambia’s Democratic Gains

Barrow’s Crackdown on Protesters Rolls Back Gambia’s Democratic Gains
Gambian President Adama Barrow, right, drives with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Banjul, Gambia, Jan. 21, 2019 (AP photo).

BANJUL, Gambia—In late February, eight political activists were released on bail from the Mile 2 maximum security prison outside Banjul, the capital of this small West African country. They had been arrested along with more than a hundred others for participating in a demonstration in January calling on Adama Barrow to follow through on his earlier promise to step down as Gambia’s president this year.

The protest’s organizers had received authorization from the government. But as a crowd gathered on the outskirts of Banjul to start the march, police fired teargas and charged the would-be protesters with batons. Dozens were injured and a total of 137 people were arrested. All of them have now been released, but the eight who were granted bail last month have been charged with unlawful assembly and rioting. They are set to appear in court on March 30, and could face long jail terms if convicted.

On the day of the planned march, authorities also raided the offices of two private radio stations, forcing them off the air, and arrested four journalists on charges of inciting violence during the protest. While those charges were dropped weeks later, Reporters Without Borders denounced the Barrow administration’s “dictatorial censorship tactics.”

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