DAKAR — Senegal has joined the international chorus condemning Gambia's execution of nine death row inmates, two of whom were Senegalese. The incident has further strained the neighbors' already turbulent relationship.
In Dakar, human rights activists rallied outside the Gambian High Commission Thursday to call on authorities to suspend all capital punishment. Dozens crowded the narrow street outside the Commission, Thursday. Their message: Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh is a murderer.
Senegalese activist Alioune Tine led the small, but fervent, crowd. He called on the entire international community to react quickly against President Jammeh, whom he called a dictator, before it's too late. If not, he said, all the other death row inmates will be killed and thrown in mass graves like the first nine.
Tine's African Assembly for the Defense of Human Rights organized the demonstration with Amnesty International to intervene on behalf of the remaining 39 death row inmates whom President Jammeh has promised to execute by mid-September.
The Gambian government announced Monday that nine death row prisoners had been killed by firing squad the night before. The European Union, the United Nations and other world powers condemned Gambia's actions and are calling on Gambia to refrain from further executions.
Two Senegalese citizens were among those executed. The executions have further soured relations that were already tense because of trade and transport disputes, and Gambia's rumored support for separatist rebels in southern Senegal.
Senegalese President Macky Sall summoned the Gambian ambassador Wednesday for a dressing down over the executions. Sall reportedly demanded an explanation as to why Senegal was not notified of the impending execution of its citizens.
Senegalese citizen Seynabou Wade came to the protest Thursday as a show of solidarity with the two Senegalese who were executed and the one remaining Senegalese citizen on death row in Gambia.
Wade says that, since he has been in power, President Jammeh hasn't stopped provoking Senegal. She says that enough is enough, especially now that he's started killing Senegalese people.
Jammeh's 16 years in power have been marked by reports of human rights abuses, including torture, attacks on journalists and threats against homosexuals.
Sheriff Bojang, a Gambian national living in Dakar whose cousin was executed last week for his involvement in a 1998 coup attempt against President Jammeh, says that Senegal and the rest of the international community should not expect transparency or proper protocol from the Gambian government.
“Nobody informed the family," he said. "Up to now, his body has not been given to the family, for he is a Muslim, for proper Muslim burial as our Gambian religion and customs demand. But no, they put them in mass graves. So nobody knows where he was killed or where he was buried, which is really the most disrespectful thing you can ever do to a human being.”
The Gambian constitution allows for state executions, but it also calls for disclosure and due process that many in the international community feel was not upheld.