Gambia, The

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for the Press

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.

Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction.

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

By law the Gambia Police Force must grant a permit for all public meetings and gatherings. The inspector general of police has the authority to approve or disapprove permits and is required to communicate his decision to the requester in writing. Requests are generally approved unless there is concern regarding the peaceful nature of a proposed protest. Security forces lacked the capability to employ effective, nonviolent crowd-control techniques.

On July 24, residents of Brikama gathered to protest poor delivery of community services by the Brikama Area Council despite having been denied a legally required permit from police. In the days leading to the protest, police denied a permit to hold the protest on “public safety” grounds and attempted to dissuade residents from holding it. According to media reports, the protest began with a “few dozen” individuals gathered near the Brikama main market that police attempted to disperse by firing tear gas rounds. In response the number of protesters increased, and protesters began throwing stones at police and started a fire in the market. Several protesters and police were injured. Several protesters were arrested but released on bail; all charges were subsequently dropped. The ECOWAS military intervention unit was eventually deployed to protect key infrastructure in Brikama from further attacks.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement

The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights.

In-country Movement: Police and immigration personnel frequently set up security checkpoints. Individuals found to be without proper identification documentation were subject to detention or forced to pay bribes.

Not applicable.

f. Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting refugee status. The Gambia Commission for Refugees worked with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on protection of refugees.

Not applicable.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Recent Elections: The country held a presidential election in 2016, in which Adama Barrow, the candidate of an opposition coalition, defeated Yahya Jammeh, the incumbent. The election was largely peaceful and considered credible. The defeated incumbent initially accepted the results, before declaring them “null and void,” alleging irregularities in the process. This led to a six-week political impasse before Jammeh dropped his claims and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea, bowing to regional and international pressure and the threat of military force from the ECOWAS, the member states of which had massed soldiers on the Gambia’s borders.

The country also held legislative elections in 2017 that were described by domestic and international observers as mostly free and fair. Mama Kandeh, leader of the Gambia Democratic Congress, rejected the results, claiming to have evidence that would expose the unfairness of the entire process. Kandeh, however, did not provide any evidence to substantiate his claim.

Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. Evidence suggested cultural constraints limited women’s participation in the political process; men greatly outnumbered women in the cabinet and parliament.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future