WATCH: Gambian leader 'torturing' opponents, says HRW

2016-11-02 14:06
Yahya Jammeh (AFP)

Yahya Jammeh (AFP)

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Cape Town – A rights group has expressed concern over the upcoming Gambia election, saying that the vote might not be free and fair, as the west African country's government was "brutally cracking down on opposition parties". 

Gambia was set to choose its next president on December 1.

In a 43 page report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed that the government was not giving enough airtime to the opposition parties to campaign.  

HRW deputy programme director Babatunde Olugboji said that President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, had used a crackdown on the opposition, domination of state media, and also used state resources for campaigning to ensure a political advantage in the upcoming election.

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"The Jammeh government has threatened, beaten and tortured opposition party members for exercising their basic rights, all but extinguishing hopes for a fair election," said Olugboji

HRW said it had since asked foreign donors to withdraw their support from the Gambian government until due democratic processes had been followed.

"Unless this situation improves, Gambia’s international donors should impose targeted sanctions on senior officials implicated in abuses," said Olugboji.

The report by HRW was based on more than 100 interviews conducted in Gambia, Senegal, and the United States, between March - September 2016.

HRW said it interviewed members of political parties, journalists, leaders of nongovernmental groups, lawyers, retired Gambian civil servants, former members of the security forces, and foreign diplomats.

Watch video below.

The group said that since the beginning of the year, more than 90 opposition activists had been arrested for participating in peaceful protests, while at least 30 activists had been sentenced to three-year prison terms.

Two opposition activist had also died in custody, HRW said.   

Recent reports indicated that seven opposition Gambian parties had closed ranks and chosen a sole candidate to contest against Jammeh.

The candidate, Adama Barrow, was elected through primaries in a convention attended by 490 delegates last month.

The 51-year-old from the United Democratic Party, the country's biggest opposition movement, got 308 of the 487 votes cast.

"We have put our differences aside for the interest of this country. Gambians are tired of 22 years of Yahya Jammeh's misrule and will end it come December 1st when we go to the polls. We all have to put our hands together to save this country from destruction," Barrow was quoted as saying. 

Read more on:    yahya jammeh  |  gambia  |  gambia 2016 election  |  west africa

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