Gambia’s political change really ‘striking’— Amnesty

The deputy regional director of Amnesty International says Gambia has a big challenge reforming its institutions and mindsets of people after two decades of dictatorship. 

Cockburn

Stephen Cockburn, deputy regional director of Amnesty International, has paid tribute to Gambian journalists for their “incredible” participation in ending two decades of dictatorship in the small country.

Cockburn said if Gambia could succeed in its fight over dictatorship in two decades, the success can be replicated elsewhere in Africa.

“When you talk about the change in Gambia, it is really motivating because we worked on so many hard, difficult issues where change doesn’t always come,” Cockburn said.

“If you see that things could change in Gambia, they can change anywhere… So it has been very inspiring working with the people of The Gambia. I would say first and foremost Gambian journalists have been one of the most inspiring, incredible and strong… What happened here is a big story to tell… when working in Burundi, Central Africa and other places.”

Cockburn and three other officials from the international rights watchdog met with journalists and president of Gambia Press Union Bai Emil Touray at the press house in Fajara.

Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa but the country has been the center of human rights violations under former president Yahya Jammeh for two decades.

The country has lost many cases at the ECOWAS court of justice over human rights abuses but refused to honour the judgments.

Cockburn said that was a wrong message for the smallest country in the region.

“How do you expect Nigeria to respect the court if Gambia does not,” Cockburn asked.

While he expressed optimism over the future of the New Gambia, Cockburn said the country needs to work really hard in changing institutions that have been used in repressing people for two decades.

“Obviously, this is now the hardest phase— for Gambia to move from 22 years of dictatorship which is not due to an individual but a system— an institution that has learned to repress people and that instinct will not go away overnight,” he argued.

He said they have seen authorities to discuss how they could ensure protection of human rights going forward.

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