Government’s Reaction on Kanilai confrontation (Press Statement)

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Fellow Gambians;
Today, H.E Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia directed the convening of the National Security Council, to discuss national security challenges. The Gambia must position itself with the capacity to confront the security challenges of the 21st century. The new democratic dispensation must be nurtured and jealously protected if we have to avert potential internal insecurity. On matters of national security, we must avoid reaching a cross-road. As Gambians, with common destiny and purpose, we must march together, hand in hand, in unison, towards our common destiny. We will fail as a nation, if we move ahead, leaving any community or section of community behind. We will be at our best, if we can all work together, as each others keeper, being passionate about our common well-being. That is the true spirit of one Gambia, one people, one destiny.

On Dec. 1 2016, we Gambians exercised a sovereign democratic choice. We had three choices, and in conformity with nationally and internationally accepted democratic principle and practices, The Gambia decided by electing Adama Barrow President of the Rep. of The Gambia. On that historic date, we did not just elect a new President to form a new government, more fundamentally, we voted for system change. Never again in our history, shall we permit the fangs of dictatorship and executive lawlessness to rear its ugly head. A system change requires radical transformation of not only our governance infrastructure, but also our national attitude, mindset and approach to issues. We cannot demand change, if we are not prepared to change our attitude towards our national obligations and duties. We cannot create a strong nation, vibrant economy or peaceful and stable communities, if we engage in lawless acts or take the law into our own hands, all in the name of democracy. Many of our citizens misread democracy to mean do as you like with impunity. The New Gambia has not dispensed with the rule of law. Every citizen is subject to the law, and every inch of Gambian territory must be subject to Gambia law.
No part of The Gambia shall be permitted to be an island by itself in terms of the enforcement of the law. Impunity shall not be accepted from any community or settlement in The Gambia. You either obey the law, or be consumed by the law. Let me state: enough is enough acts of provocation calculated to undermine public security shall be visibly met by the compelling force of the law.
The national security council was convened for an emergency meeting today, saturday 3 june 2017, under the authority of his excellency, mr adama barrow, president of the republic of the gambia, to discuss an urgent issue of concern to the government of the Gambia.

The situation in Kanilai.
Yesterday, 2 June 2017, a group of people from villages in the foni area staged violent demonstrations and attacked the security forces deployed in and around Kanilai, and border villages inside Cassamance. Security reports revealed that some members of the group, who were armed with traditional weapons, engaged in provocative acts against members of the security forces in the area and made some demands, one of which was the removal of security personnel from the Kanilai area.

Unfortunately, during the tense standoff between the group of armed demonstrators and members of the security forces deployed in the area, two members of the group and one Ecomig soldier were wounded resulting in the regrettable death, today 3 June, of one of the demonstrators at the royal victoria teaching hospital in banjul. The exact circumstances of this death are still being investigated. The government of the Gambia meanwhile conveys to the family of the deceased, its profound sympathies for their loss.

The government takes this opportunity to inform the general public that while it will generally not interfere with the exercise of the fundamental human rights of the people including the right to peaceful assembly and association as enshrined in the constitution, no one should use this as a pretext to cause trouble or provoke a situation of crisis in this country. The exercise of these rights must be done in a peaceful manner and no group of people has the right to determine the rule of law in the name of democracy. The government of the gambia will determine the security needs of this country and shall act in the national interest including the deployment of security forces in any part of the country as it deems appropriate at any given moment.

the people of this country have turned their backs on the old ways of violence and lawlessness in favour of progress and peaceful co-existence when they elected a new president on 1 december 2017, and that no amount of provocation will derail this national project or prevent this government from achieving this objective.

We therefore call upon community leaders and the majority of the good citizens of foni and the kanilai area to not allow a minority to tarnish their image. the country belongs to all of us and it is the governments responsibility to ensure that every person in this country is assured of their personal liberty and freedom from intimidation and fear.

Finally, the government of the gambia commends members of the security forces deployed in the foni and kanilai area for exercising maximum restraint by refusing to react to the blatant acts of provocation by this group of armed demonstrators. the disciplined conduct of the security forces substantially contributed to a de-escalation of the situation which could have easily spiraled out of control.

the government will continue to monitor the situation and to continue engaging with community leaders in the area in order to prevent a recurrence.

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