Senegalese Border Police harass, detain Gambian journalist and Sierra Leonean Author

4 Oct
Gambian journalist Baboucarr Ceesay (L) and Sierra Leonean author Chernoh Alpha M. Bah were detained for refusing to pay a bribe to Senegalese police (Photo: MSJoof/FPI/October 2015)

Gambian journalist Baboucarr Ceesay (L) and Sierra Leonean author Chernoh Alpha M. Bah were detained for refusing to pay a bribe to Senegalese police (Photo: MSJoof/FPI/October 2015)

Senegalese Police at the town of Karang on Senegal-Gambia border on Wednesday reportedly assaulted and detained an independent Gambian journalist, Baboucarr Ceesay following a controversy involving a Sierra Leonean political activist and author, Chernoh Alpha M. Bah.

Bah was travelling with Ceesay to Banjul from Senegal on the invitation of Mr. Ceesay, a former vice president of the Gambian Press Union (GPU) and publisher of the Gambia Watchdog blog, when they were harassed and assaulted by Senegalese border police.

Bah is the author of a new book, Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Corporate Gangsters, Multinationals & Rogue Politicians.

Ceesay reported that the incident occurred on September 30, 2015 when Senegalese border police seized Bah’s passport and insisted that he pay a bribe of CFA5000 which Bah refused to pay.

Ceesay said: “The officers ordered that Bah should pay the CFA 5000 in order for his passport to be stamped and allowed to leave the country, but Chernoh Bah declined to pay on grounds that the police officers do not have legal authority to demand such a payment from him.”

He said the police officers insisted that if Chernoh Bah did not pay the amount, he would not be let out of the country.

“They insisted that they were going to send him back to Dakar and refuse him access into the Gambia,” Ceesay said, adding that an argument ensued between Bah and the police officers who had already seized Bah’s Sierra Leonean passport.

“In fact, one of the police officers furiously ran towards Chernoh Bah and forcefully pulled his bag and nearly dropped his laptop on the ground,” Ceesay explained.

He stated that the “aggravated action” from the police officers against his colleague forced him to intervene in the dispute.

“I told the officers that Chernoh Bah was not supposed to pay a bribe in order to exit Senegal because he is an ECOWAS citizen and that the demand for the payment had no legal justification,” Ceesay said.

He explained that the officers then jumped on him, assaulted him to the point of tearing his clothes and forced him into a cell where he was unlawfully detained for three hours.

Ceesay also said the Senegalese police officer intimidated him in the cell and tried to force him into accepting a confessional statement as a condition for his release, which he refused to accept. Ceesay was only released with the intervention of the Gambian Immigration Officers from Amdalaye on The Gambian side of the border.

Border policing major obstacle to free movement

The economic bloc ECOWAS promotes the free movement of people, goods and services within the sub-region as enshrined in one of its Protocols.

However, Front Page International (FPI) understands that border policing remains a major stumbling block to the implementation of the protocol.

On July 17, 2014, the Gendarme at a Malian border arrested and detained FPI’s Editor-In-Chief Demba Kandeh “for no obvious reasons.”

Then released him 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.

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