Gambian authorities have deployed an intervention force outside the capital, Banjul in anticipation of a protest over frequent power cuts that have riddled suburbs in the Kombo metro.
Protest leaders met with the country’s security and energy ministers and had called off the sit-down strike at a square, where opposition activists Solo Sandeng staged an anti-government protest last year.
Police with riot gears and teargas have been seen at strategic locations around Serrekunda and Kanifing and along the highway linking the island capital to mainland Gambia.
The #OccuppyWestfield protest ground is just adjacent to the corporate head office of the state-owned company NAWEC, which has been struggling to meet the energy demand in the Kombos.
It is unfortunate that as an emerging democracy, our heads of institutions cannot trust our young people. Even after dialogue, Paramilitary went on to man the Westfield, cooperative, and Serekunda-Banjul high way,” said activist Kemo Bojang.
“We must be able to build trust within, we must be able to relate to the people. In as much as the police claimed ‘the security of the country is fragile’, this was why a permit was needed, to monitor the actions of the young people rather than sending Paramilitary officers on to the streets reminding some of us of at least a year or so ago.”
Several activists confronted the police at Westfield Square, including rap activist, Ali Cham [Killa Ace]. They insist they are not staging a protest after talks with authorities, including President Adama Barrow’s National Security Advisor, Momodou Badjie.
At least seven protests have been held in Gambia in just 10 months since the ouster of former president, Yahya Jammeh. Two of the protests turned violent, leaving properties destroyed, several people wounded and one person dead.
President Barrow has visited the NAWEC power station to have a firsthand assessment of the situation. The company’s Managing Director Baba Fatajo assured that there will be some form of stability by end of December.
Gambia needs at least $600 million to resolve its current electricity crisis. Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang hopes that they will be able to meet energy demands by 2020.
The Gambia has signed agreements with neighboring Senegal’s Senelec and China’s state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company, Sinohydro to help supply electricity, expected to cover for some 50 megawatts.