Court security officers arrive at the Supreme Court in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2016. Picture taken December 5, 2016. REUTERS/ Thierry Gouegnon

Witnesses: Police assault demonstrating drivers

Riot police have assaulted drivers protesting the lowering of fares by the government on Monday as the country’s transport union threatens to bring the country to a standstill.

Police confronted disgruntled drivers at Coastal Road, where they got into a dispute, which escalated into confrontations between the two sides.

The drivers resisted the arrest of some of their colleagues and amid the clash, the police used batons to beat the protesters, eyewitnesses say.

Several people were hurt but not seriously injured, they said. Witnesses could ascertain how many reported they were hurt but confirmed no arrests were made.

However, it is reported that the drivers on strike attacked those that refused to boycott the roads, using profanity and making comments that could have led to tensions flaring without the timely intervention of the police.

The public has expressed disappointment with the transport union’s refusal to accept the new tariffs. The union is accusing the authorities of not factoring in their plight in the decision.

Gambian authorities and drivers were in talks with the government but according to transport union leaders, the talks were inconclusive.

Monday’s strike left many Gambians, mostly government workers heading to the capital, Banjul stranded, missing out on the days work.

Officials are expected to be engaging drivers in fresh talks to avoid the escalation of the strike into a logjam that may take days or even weeks to end.

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