By Suntou Touray
With the dust almost settled even though facts about the Gambia’s witch hunting episode may all not be known, there is occasion to reflect over the whole encounter. Men dressed in red raided settlements in search of witches. They captured people of decent background and made them consume lethal concoctions in the name of ridding them off witch craft spirits. Some of the captives died. Large numbers still remain in biting pains, mostly deep in their stomach.
Former Serrekunda East parliamentary member and sociologist Halifa Sallah was last month arrested and detained at mile 2 prisons for over a week. This was due to his decision to visit two villages over a witch hunting incidence. Halifa after his release commented that he went on a fact finding mission to the two villages. More accurately put he tried to proof whether the witch hunting story was actually true or false.
Halifa was arrested afterward because the government felt that, he as an ordinary citizen of the Gambia who seeking to impersonate the work of the police or state security agents.
No doubt Halifa by all regards played brave by what he did. Why he did so remains a question on wet lips.
Some people considered it a genuine move by Halifa to prove what others thought a mere rumour. To others Halifa was in a publicity campaign for himself and certainly scored political points whether he preferred using that or not.
From what came out of the encounter Halifa made us all to know that the witch hunting story is real and the actions are sanctioned by Gambia government.
What next after knowing the true story still a valid question for curious onlookers. Will there be any lawsuit against the government for the unlawful conduct of humiliating and harassing innocent Gambians?
The witch hunting episode ended up projecting Halifa’s political profile at higher levels. He was a victim of arbitrary arrest but that by itself arrested the tormenting witch hunt at least until matters settled over Halifa’s own arrest and brief detention. The whole saga eventually shifted from the witch hunting focusing on Halifa. That earned him a high profile victim of the unjust government crime of witch hunting.
Halifa made noise about the remote control Gambian constitution loud enough. He defended his action by quoting various sections of the Gambian constitution, a document he knows about inside out. Halifa knows too well also that document is serving one man and one man only, Yahya Jammeh the current Gambian head of state. Since many Gambians know for a fact that document is not protecting their human rights for a number reasons one wonders if there was any need for Halifa to labour over constitutionality this fragrant government encounter with innocent citizens.
The gains of Halifa’s intervention can double if he was to help the victims pursue claims of damage resulting from such inhuman treatment. The victims deserve good compensation.
The good efforts of Halifa placed him beyond the single position of flag bearer PDOIS /NADD to the lofty point of standing tall for Gambian people in times of need. This is enough wakeup call for Gambians over length and breadth of the country to resist the advances of witch hunters. Halifa can draft a comprehensive law suit against the government as seen truly standing up for the people. The point of departure would be the constitution, a book fully in Halifa’s firm grips. Impeachment proceedings against the president can be initiated, thus demonstrating severity human rights violations.
The law suits may not bear quicker results but to make the government pay victims. Through that citizens will go long way in exposing the severity of state organized crimes.
We await Halifa’s future actions concerning the witch hunting debacle.
Halifa’s political profile is undoubtedly boosted. Other gains exceed individual political scores. Yahya should not have arrested Halifa in the first place. The only reason one would think he ordered his arrest was to cause wider divide among the ranks of the opposition.
Halifa’s followers have a talking point- our only saviour they would say. He emerged hero of the hour. His arrest has potential to change something.