The Gambia’s parliament has been accused of allowing the executive to abuse its authority not taking up a member’s ‘unconstitutional’ arrest and detention by the country’s feared spy agency, NIA.
National Assembly Member Buba Ayi Sanneh’s detention is going into its third week after Gambian authorities rebutted reports of his arrest and allegedly broke into his vehicle taking documents.
Sanneh (Independent – Kombo Central) is alledged to have sold a land he owns in Farato, a village less than five miles from the administrative city of Brikama. The land was sold to another by his late brother unknown to him.
The lawmaker has promised to compensate the last buyer and yet to be charged by Gambian authorities.
Rights activists said it is a civil matter and such does not fall under the jurisdiction of the National Intelligence Agency. They have called his detention a politically motivated one ahead of the country’s presidential polls in which he is an instrumental opposition campaigner in a crucial constituency.
The intelligence agency is only answerable to President Yahya Jammeh and operates under the country’s 1994 military decrees, giving it powers to detain citizens beyond the constitutionally allowed 72 hours without charges.
Deputy Speaker Fatou Mbye and Clerk Dodou Kebbeh both refused to comment on the issue but Majority Leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta who declined to comment on the prolong detention said National Assembly Members do not have immunity aside from comments and actions they take during parliamentary sittings.
Jatta (APRC – Serrekunda East) has promised to look into the matter, according to local newspaper FOROYAA.
Gambia’s government has been accused by rights groups of acting above the law and giving directives in judicial matters. Courts are unable to apply the rule of law and judges who rule against the state are subjected to arrest or dismissal.
The ruling APRC has the majority seat in The Gambia’s parliament and lawmakers who opposes or take actions not in favor of government risk losing their seat by being dismissed from the ruling party further straining separation of power in mainland Africa’s smallest nation.