MY STORY AS A VICTIM FOR ASKING UDP, GMC LEADERS QUESTIONS ON SPLIT OF COALITION
Even before the press conference started journalists were being intimidated by the crowd of supporters of the political parties. Of course we knew the greater number of them belong to the United Democratic Party (UDP) with few from the National Reconciliation Party (NRP) and the Gambia Moral Congress (GMC), if the GMC even have their supporters in at all.
We wondered what type of press conference it was simply because the aggressively-looking supporters heavily outnumbered the journalists.
After all the statements from Ousainou Darboe, Hamat Bah and Mai Ahmad Fatty, the leaders of the UDP, NRP and GMC respectively, I was the first to ask two questions. As soon as I introduced myself as a Foroyaa Newspaper journalist, I was continually interrupted by party militants from behind, and on either side. I could hear them saying “he is sent by Halifa Sallah”.
It was hard to put my questions across because of harassment and interruptions. I could hear my colleague journalists telling the wild supporters “please allow us to do our job” but they never accepted.
My questions were directed at Darboe and Fatty. To Darboe, I asked him for clarification and the question was: What causes the split since it looks like the tactical alliance he mentioned was part of the options Halifa said last week in his press conference? As Mai Fatty in his deliberation stated that the coalition cannot contest in the election base on legal grounds. I then asked him: If the coalition could contest in the presidential election to unseat President Jammeh, why can’t they do the same in unison in the parliamentary election?
Darboe clarified the differences saying they split because others including the PDOIS, NCP, PPP, and GPDP are not in for a tactical alliance but to contest as independent candidates which they cannot do because they don’t want their parties to die. Fatty answered that Adama Barrow, whom I used in my question as a reference is one, but that cannot be applied to all the constituencies. After their responses, I faced more intimidations.
At the end of the press conference, while I was still in the room directly standing opposite Mr. Darboe who was flanked by Mr. Bah and Mr. Fatty, a young man approached me from behind telling me: Why not go and ask Halifa Sallah? I kept quiet and he repeated it again and I told him “I am here as an independent journalist representing Foroyaa Newspaper not Halifa. He insulted me. He continued to harass me. This happened right inform of the three leaders. More militants joined in before a colleague from GRTS radio, Abddulie Sey, held my hand and we headed down stairs.
The insults on me and my mother intensified. Some could not understand what happened but they were following and insulting me. I was held by two police orderlies that came with the ministers to the event to left the room. As I was coming down stairs they followed me shouting that “why should I insulted Mr. Darboe”, an allegation that I never did.
As Sey was still holding me towards the highway, they followed me. This time one of them hit me and I defended myself. They came as a group (men and women) to attack me; one woman used her finger nails to scratch around my neck leaving brushes on me. They tore my shirt at the scene. I suffered internal shoulder pain too.
As larger crowds continue to approach me on the highway, I was forced into one of the taxis parked along the road. The militants surrounded the vehicle to prevent it from moving. They repeatedly hit the vehicle.
- By Kebba Jeffang, Foroyaa Newspaper