Gambian President Adama Barrow has waded into the controversy sparked after former President Yahya Jammeh’s party announced its intention to mark July 22nd, the day he came to power in a bloodless coup 23 years ago.Writing on his official Facebook page on Thursday, President Barrow described the intention by members of the opposition Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) to mark such an occasion as inconceivable.
In a post entitled “Democracy cannot celebrate Autocracy” Barrow said: “As Gambians, we all know the significance of this date, a date of illegal seizure of power from a constitutional and democratically elected government… It is a day which, democrats cannot celebrate as public holiday to commemorate the 1994 military coup d’état led by former President Yahya Jammeh”.
He added: “My government is democratically elected and we promote the principles of democracy on which it was elected to leadership. It would be inconceivable, given the obvious historical perspective, to expect that the 22nd of July military coup d’état will continue to be celebrated as a national holiday in The New Gambia”.
Mr. Barrow who defeated long-term ruler Yahya Jammeh at the December 1 2016 presidential election was reacting for the first time to the debate on whether to allow the defeated APRC to proceed with events celebrating the supposed accomplishments which followed the 1994 coup.
The Gambian Inspector General of Police Landing Kinteh denied that a permit was issued for the commemoration despite claims by APRC MP for Foni Kansala Amul Nyassi that the police had issued them a permit to mark the day.
There has been a spirited debate by both sides of the political divide to prevail over marking the 23 anniversary of the military takeover.
Over the last two decades, the day has been marked with a public holiday and state festivities led by then President Jammeh now in exile in Equatorial Guinea after his surprise election defeat to Barrow.
His 22 years in office following the ousting of Sir Dawda Jawara was characterized by allegations of gross human rights violations including killings, forced disappearances, torture and other inhuman treatment of perceived opponents, accusations that he has repeatedly denied.