Senegalese Police at the town of Amdalaye on the Senegal-Gambia border on Wednesday September 30, 2015 reportedly assaulted and detained an independent Gambian journalist, Baboucarr Ceesay following a controversy involving a Sierra Leonean political activist and author, Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, who was travelling with Ceesay to Banjul, the Freedom Newspaper can report.
Chernoh Bah was travelling to Gambia from Senegal on the invitation of Ceesay, a former Vice President of The Gambian Press Union (GPU) and publisher of the Gambia Watchdog blog, when they were harassed and assaulted by Senegalese border police.
Ceesay reported that the incident occurred when Senegalese border police seized Bah’s passport and insisted that he pay a bribe of CFA5000 which Bah refused to pay.
“The officers ordered that Bah should pay the CFA 5000 in order for his passport to be stamped and allowed to leave the country, but Chernoh Bah declined to pay on grounds that the police officers do not have legal authority to demand such a payment from him,” Ceesay explained.
He said the police officers insisted that if Chernoh Bah did not pay the amount, he would not be let out of the country.
“They insisted that they were going to deport him to Dakar and refuse him access into The Gambia,” Ceesay said, adding that an argument ensued between Bah and the police officers who had already seized Bah’s Sierra Leonean passport.
“In fact, one of the police officers furiously ran towards Chernoh Bah and forcefully pulled his computer bag and nearly dropped his laptop on the ground,” Ceesay said.
He stated that the aggravated action from the police officers against his colleague forced him to intervene in the dispute.
“I told the officers that Chernoh Bah was not supposed to pay a bribe in order to exit Senegal because he is an ECOWAS citizen and that the demand for the payment had no legal justification,” Ceesay said.
He explained that the officers then jumped on him, assaulted him to the point of tearing his clothes and forced him into a cell where he was unlawfully detained for three hours.
Ceesay also said the Senegalese police officer intimidated him in the cell and tried to force him into accepting a confessional statement as a condition for his release, which he refused to accept. . Ceesay was only released with the intervention of the Gambian Immigration Officers from the other side of the border.
Efforts to reach the Senegalese police command for comment during the weekend proved abortive. No one was available to shed light on the story.
President Macky Sall is the Chairman of the African bloc, the economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Both journalist Ceesay and his Sierra Leonean colleague claimed that they were assaulted by the Senegalese border police.
We hope President Sall will use his good office and investigate the rogue security agents behind this unprovoked incident. Senegalese security agents over the years have demonstrated high degree of professionalism, when it comes to media relation and treatment.
In any given security setup, there is bound to be some rogue ones. But in the case of Senegal, the agents in question are expected to live up to expectations—given the fact that their Commander-in-chief Macky Sall is the current Chairman of ECOWAS. ECOWAS protocols should not only be implemented by member states, but it should be respected to the letter. Police brutality should not be condoned. We demand justice in the case of the two West African ECOWAS citizens.
Written by a Correspondent