Brikama Rally: Interior Minister Confirms Water Cannon is Brought in for Use on Protesters, Barrow Says He’s Staying Put Till 2021
The Interior Minister Ebrima Mballow Saturday confirmed for the first time that a water cannon truck has been brought into the country for the police to use on protesters.
Speaking at a Brikama political rally held by supporters of President Adama Barrow, Mballow said the water cannon is meant to be used on protesters who intent to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the country.
His statement came more than a week after Gambians inundated the social media with photos of a water cannon truck being offloaded from a container at the ports, sparking criticism against the idea to bring in the truck.
“There are speculations that the government brought riot gears and armoured tankers. That is not true. What we brought in is water cannon truck. It will spray hot water on anyone who resorts to rudeness,” he told a cheering crowd.
According to Mballow, it is not the wish of the government to use the water cannon on the citizens, but stated that it will be used on those who want to destabilise the peace of the country. He warned against unauthorised protests, saying that anyone who engages in unauthorised protest must be ready to confront the hot water from the water cannon truck.
“We know that there are people in the Diaspora who are pushing you to embark on the three years jotna campaign by telling you three years this and three years that. I’m warning you not to listen to them because if anyone engages in this protest we will not sit and watch you destroy the country.”
“Let us not allow ourselves to be used by those in the Diaspora and elsewhere on this three years Jotna issue. Let us respect the dictates of the constitution because we will not allow anything that may destabilise the country,” Mballow warned.
In May, 15 people were arrested and charged for staging a protest calling on President Barrow to step down at the end of a three-year term. They protested under the banner of the Three Years Jotna movement formed by ordinary citizens to mount pressure on the president to respect the three-year transition he agreed during the formation of the grand opposition coalition that won the December 2016 election. Some people are threatening to take to the streets in December to call on the president to step down.
But addressing the rally, President Barrow said he’ll rule the country until 2021, citing the constitution.
“Whether you like it or not I will rule till 2021 because this is what I’m mandated by the constitution. If anyone wants to succeed me they can wait till 2021,” Barrow told the crowd. “The only way to the presidency is through the front door. There’s no back door or short curve to the presidency. Whoever wants to become president will have to wait till 2021 and seek the mandate of the people through the ballot box.”
Barrow also threw a jab at his social media and Diaspora critics, referring to them and their criticisms as irrelevant. He mocked that most of the people ranting and criticizing him on the social media cannot even mobilise ten people for a gathering. He called on the Diaspora Gambians to instead return home and help build the country.
“When I see people in the Diaspora complaining on the social media that President Barrow refuses to give them jobs, this surprises me because I was also in the Diaspora and when I decided to come home I was not expecting a job from anyone. I came with my own plans to do something in this country and I earned a living and was able to do a lot.”
Responding to criticism that he’s uneducated, Barrow took a swipe at educated Gambians, saying they were nowhere to be seen when they were desperately needed.
“The time I was elected as flag-bearer all these knowledgeable Gambians both in the Diaspora and within the country were all around. All the PhD holders were here and no one came forward. But today if you advertise it on the newspapers we’ll see a different story.”
Addressing the rally earlier, the Minister of Tourism Hamat Bah said President Barrow will stay on till 2021 “without a doubt”, arguing that the president was given a certificate of return by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to rule this country base on a 5-year mandate.
“You were elected and given the opportunity to rule for five years. Nobody can undo that in this country. It is not an argument. It is the constitution and that is the law that supersedes any other agreement you have made with anybody,” Bah told the president.
“We are not worried about citizens wanting to protest. We are in a democracy and they have a right to demonstrate. But to protest you must follow the due process of the law and the law is here for everyone. Nobody will be maltreated as long as you follow the due process of the law.”
“We are not panicking about the three years jotna. We are not worried about that because we remain solid and firm on the ground and we maintain security and protect Gambians at every level in this country,” Bah said.
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This is a challenge to all Gambians that we need to respond to. If we sit still and do nothing, this government will become another dictatorship. Let’s go and confront the water canons.