Q & A: FPI’s Demba Kandeh speaks on his detention ordeal

21 Jul
Demba Kandeh, The Gambia-based contributor for Global Voices Online, the publisher of The Gambia News Waves, arrived Banjul Friday, July 18 (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof/Globe/FPI/Nov2011)

Demba Kandeh, The Gambia-based contributor for Global Voices Online, and the publisher of The Gambia News Waves, arrived Banjul Friday, July 18 (Photo Credit: Modou S. Joof/Globe/FPI/Nov2011)

He was  was detained Thursday morning, July 17 by the Gendarme  at a Malian border  “for no obvious reasons.”

Then released the same day after more than two hours, but not until the Malian border guards emptied his wallet, seized his national identity card, and conducted unnecessary searches on his digital camera and hand luggage.


Front Page International, FPI, Editor-In-Chief and Gambian journalist and blogger, Demba Kandeh, speaks to News Editor Modou S. Joof on his detention ordeal. Read on…

What was the purpose of your trip to Bamako?

I was on a private visit to Bamako. I have been there for a week and was coming home.

Can you tell us the circumstance of your arrest and detention?

I was arrested and detained for a little over 2hrs and released unharmed. While in detention, all my documents were seized and my hand luggage was also searched by the authorities. My digital camera was also checked. Apparently, the authorities found nothing abnormal.

It all started when I requested explanation for a socalled “boarder transit fees” of 6000 CFA francs. I also wanted to know whether if I paid the money I will get a receipt in return. My questions seem to have angered the officer and he ordered for my detention behind bars. I complied, and stood behind bars.


Did the authorities seize any of your equipment?

After I was released, they refused to give me back my National Identity Card. The officer said he will not give me back my ID card and that I should leave the premises. I left without my ID card. Lucky for me, I had photocopies of it and my driving licence which bears the National ID card number. I used that document to pass through the rest of the security check points in Senegal and the Gambia.

Shortly after I left the station, I checked my hand bag and realised that they have taken my money, a balance of about 3000 CFA Francs.

The bus I was travelling on had gone by then so I had to hire a taxi to go to Senegal, where I luckily found the bus going through immigration and custom services. Since I had a visa card, I got money as soon as I had access to a cash machine in Senegal.


How would you describe your ordeal?

It was a terrible ordeal but it also highlights how corrupt the security services in Africa are. It is also unfortunate that there still exists a huge divide between English and French Africa. The governments seem to perpetuate those unfortunate colonial legacies.

I am of the opinion that what happened to me was illegal and it amounts to violation of not just my rights but also ECOWAS protocols of which Mali is a state party.


When did you arrive here in The Gambia?

I arrived in the Gambia in morning of Friday 18 July 2014. I am very grateful to all those who took keen interest in my case and stood by me. I wish to thank my family, friends, my colleagues at FPI, Article 19 West Africa, the media fraternity in The Gambia and beyond, etc for all the solidarity and everything else.


Note: Kandeh is also The Gambia-based contributor for Global Voices Online, the publisher of The Gambia News Waves and a former deputy editor at Today Newspaper.

Front Page International (FPI) is an independent and non-partisan digital news blog published by Globe Consultants. It is run by Gambia-based journalists and bloggers who have excelled in the media field.


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