Hundreds of protesters Wednesday hurled bricks and rocks at the headquarters of the Police Anti Crime Unit in Bijilo and police personnel over the death of one Ousman Darboe.
The protesters, who marched from Serekunda Market to Bijilo, accused the Anti Crime Unit personnel of killing Darboe. A police statement said he was arrested on 12th July and charged for allegedly receiving stolen properties. According to the statement, Darboe was granted bail 15th July and was subsequently reporting on bail.
It’s not clear what happened next but family sources said Darboe died on Tuesday. The police did not say where and how he died, but stated he was an Asthmatic patient, which it said had prompted his bail during his detention.
The protesters alleged that the police had a hand in Darboe’s death. They 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.
The Anti Crime Unit personnel were seen carrying guns and firing tear gas in response.
“We’re tired of having to be beaten by the Anti Crime police,” said a protester who identified himself as Buga Bai. “Ousman is a very humble and discipline young man and he was like a brother to me. We cannot sit by and watch the police maltreating our people.”
Lamin Sabally, another protester said: “We’re fed up and we’re no longer going to take abuse from the security forces. We’ll demand that they stop. This is why we are here.”
During the riot, the head of the Anti Crime Unit, Gorgi Mboo collapsed at the gate of his office in the presence of this reporter and other journalists and was rushed to the hospital. Reports later emerged that he collapsed after he was informed on the phone that other protesters had vandalized his private residence and set it on fire.
As the riot worsened, Major General Yankuba Drammeh, the Deputy Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambia Armed Forces, arrived at the scene to and called for calm.
“We should learn from the mistakes of others and not from our own mistakes,” he told the crowd. “We cannot afford to have conflict in The Gambia because we are inter-related.”
Flanked by soldiers, Drammeh continued: “We are not here to exercise force on anyone. Instead, I’m of the believe that I can engage you in a very constructive and honest discussion, and in my opinion irrespective of the circumstances if you engage in discussions you can find peace to any given situation.”
He drew the protesters’ attention to the 2016/2017 political impasse in The Gambia and cited “constructive discussion” as a catalyst for the peace Gambians enjoy.
Drammeh’s speech was enough to calm the situation at that particular area.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police has assured the public that the police would investigate the death of Ousman Darboe and communicate the outcome of the investigation.