- The Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh could not swallow his beef with his country’s judiciary. As if he was about to explode, President Jammeh threatened to deal with judicial officials found wanting.
Mr Jammeh convened a meeting with officials of the cabinet, judiciary and security chiefs at State House in Banjul to vent anger on “rampant corruption” and “inordinate delay of cases” in the judiciary.
In a true democracy, the judiciary is free from interference but President Jammeh said there is nothing wrong with putting truth on the face of judicial staff when they go wrong.
"The independence of the judiciary must be guaranteed at all times but they should be told the truth if they are found wanting,” Mr Jammeh said, defending his points with the dragging of several criminal cases, including those of 21 March treason trials and the murder of a Briton in the country.
The Gambian leader also expressed concern about the high spate of corruption in the judiciary because “it is only in The Gambia that a murder case will drag on for years only for the culprits to get away with their crimes. This gives a bad image to the country. It is unacceptable and I will not allow it. Nobody will hold the judiciary to a ransom.”
Mr Jammeh’s threats have come at a time when his country has been at centre of condemnations for its deliberate defying of court orders to release those detained for more than 72 hours without trial or being charged. Many people have been languishing in Gambian cells without knowing the crime they have committed.
The latest such case is that of Fatou Jaw Manneh, a Gambian journalist based in the United States, who was held incommunicado for a week without being charged or tried. She was arrested as soon as she set foot in Banjul International Airport last week.
The state finally arraigned Ms Jaw Manneh in court and charged her with sedition. She has also been granted bail today by a Gambian court.
Besides, there are so many senior officials, including Managing Directors and Permanent Secretaries who have been held by the state for over six months without trial. The detainees include the former Managing Director of telecommunications, Omar Ndow.
Critics of Mr Jammeh’s government have been accusing it of hiring “mercenary judges” to slant justice.
Before the military coup that brought President Jammeh to power in 1994, the smallest country in mainland Africa had gained international recognition for respecting the rule of law and judicial independent.
But the post junta era has witnessed rampant “hiring and firing” of judges and magistrates for political reasons. A magistrate, Borry Touray, who refused to order the remand in prison of Ousainou Darboe, the leader of the main opposition United Democratic Party and party officials ambushed by the ruling party militia in the provinces seven years ago, had his services terminated by the Jammeh regime.
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