The situation in Gambia is worsening as political opponents and pro-democracy campaigners are being detained by authorities, some receiving death threats and handful gone into hiding, says Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
President Yahya Jammeh is facing local resistance to step down and hand over peacefully to President-elect Adama Barrow, who won the country’s December 1 polls.
“The targeting of the #Gambiahasdecided movement and the closure of private radio stations threaten the rights of Gambians to express their opposition to Jammeh’s attempt to stay in power,” said Jim Wormington, West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s at times like this that free expression is most crucial.”
Jammeh is refusing to hand over to Barrow, a realtor, who is backed by seven opposition parties after initially conceding defeat. Barrow’s supporters say they are going ahead with plans for a January 19 inauguration that all West African leaders pledged to attend.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said Thursday that two founding members of the #Gambiahasdecided movement have fled the country. The country’s election chief also has left Gambia after threats were made against his life.
At least half a dozen people were briefly detained with two still said to be in custody for wearing a #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt.
“The Gambian authorities must send a clear message that human rights abuses, including by members of the security forces, will not be tolerated and that those responsible for abuses during the transition will be adequately investigated and prosecuted,” said Sabrina Mahtani, West Africa Researcher at Amnesty International.
Gambia’s President-elect Barrow has threatened to swear himself in and declare Jammeh a rebel.
BuzzFeed News reported that Mr. Jammeh is recruiting rebel forces that were loyal to Liberia’s Charles Taylor to help him thwart an effort by the international community, led by ECOWAS to enforce the outcome of the elections through military intervention.