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Gambia abolishes death penalty, a departure from Jammeh’s tyranny

Gambian president Adama Barrow

WEST AFRICA – Last week, Gambia’s president Adama Barrow signed a United Nations treaty abolishing capital punishment in his country, hours after his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Analysts say the Gambia’s pledge to abolish the death penalty is a fresh break from the deposed regime of ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh. The move has given several African activists a hope that other African nations will follow the Gambia’s example.

Ex-Gambia dictator Yahya Jammeh

“By signing the treaties, the new Gambia continues to promote democracy and show the commitment of the state to protect lives of political activists,” a statement released by the Gambian authorities read.

Sources say ex-Gambian dictator Jammeh ruthlessly executed nine soldiers in 2012 and had threatened to expand a list of capital crimes in 2015. The question now, should Jammeh be brought to book for committing these heinous crimes?

In Africa, few French-speaking nations such as Benin, Congo Republic and Guinea have all taken steps to end death penalty.

Several international organizations welcome the move by the Gambia. Sabrina Mahtani, Amnesty International West Africa researcher said, “This is a positive step forward for Gambia when just five years ago people on death row were tragically executed and abolition seemed a pipe dream. We hope Gambia will lead the way, as no Anglophone country in West Africa has yet abolished the death penalty.”

Although the UN has welcomed the Gambian pledge, the numbers executed in the country’s once-notorious prisons are dwarfed by those who forcibly disappeared, a figure that runs into the dozens, according to the authorities.

The government statement claimed the move — which must still be ratified — “will remove fear and promote rule of law for citizens to express their civil and political rights.”

The treaty — formally named the “Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty” — has been ratified by 85 member states of the UN so far.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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