Riots over the death of Ousman Darboe, a Gambian-based Sierra Leonean continued into the night Wednesday in multiple areas across Kanifing Municipality.
What started as a protest during the day to seek justice for the death of Darboe, descended into a riot when angry mob blocked busy Senegambia-Turn Table highway for at least two hours and hurled bottles, stones and other objects at police. They also set car tyres on fire and sent plumes of black smoke into the sky. They accused the police Anti Crime Unit of being responsible for Darboe’s death. In response, armed police personnel fired tear gas at the protesters from the Anti Crime Unit headquarters in Bijilo in their attempt to disperse them. Other protesters ransacked the private residence of Gorgi Mboob, the head of the Anti Crime Unit before setting it on fire.
By 8pm, rioters spread in different locations, targeting police stations and personnel. They ransacked and vandalised Bakoteh and Serekunda police stations and freed detainees. Along the Serekunda-Bakoteh highway, they burnt car tyres, forcing shops to close. The London Corner police post was also attacked as rioters vandalized chairs and computers inside the post.
Eyewitnesses told The Chronicle that a group of young people who broke away from the highway protest threatened and robbed pedestrians along the London Corner-Bakoteh bridge.
“It was like a robbery scene in a Nigerian movie,” said Sainey Marong, an eyewitness. “I was walking my apprentice home when I saw a group of at least ten boys shouting at an elderly man who refused to give them the plastic bag he was carrying. I’m not sure what was in the bag but I saw them pushing him and taking the bag from him. It was around 9:30pm,” he added.
“At the point, I stood in one place to see if they were actually robbing people. They actually were. I saw them kicking another guy and taking his phone and something else from him. The man gave them the stuff and ran away.”
A woman who said she was out to buy bread in her neighbourhood in Bakoteh told The Chronicle that she was roughed up by rioters and had her phone and wallet stolen. “I saw them coming towards my direction and people were running saying ‘they’re robbing people’. But I couldn’t run because I have bad legs. All of a sudden they surrounded me and started yelling at me that I should give them my phone. They took the phone and my wallet containing a small amount of money and my national ID card.”
The woman, who refused to give her identity, said she also saw the same group attacking other people along the same highway. “I’m so scared right now. It’s like we are living in a state of lawlessness,” she said.
Meanwhile, the government last night called for calm and said it was “fully committed to the values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
“The Gambia Government will immediately set up an independent inquiry into the circumstances leading to the late Ousman Darboe’s death and if any person or persons were to be found liable, they will face the full force of the law,” it said in a statement.
The Interior Ministry warned against arson, looting and all forms of violence against any citizen. It also warned against mob justice and admonished the youth to avoid taking the law into their own hands.
“The public is thus reminded that police presence in key locations within our communities was primarily to protect and preserve the law and police officers should therefore, be seen as legitimate custodians of the peace and not troublemakers.”