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Demonstrators in Washington DC Protest Gambian Government Crackdowns

Demonstrators have staged a peaceful march in Washington from the Gambian Embassy to the U.S. State Department to protest the detention of several opponents of the government of President Yahyah Jammeh. They came to Washington from various communities of Gambians residing in the United States to voice their opposition to what they allege is a wanton human rights crackdown by President Jammeh. They criticized the Gambian leader’s appointment of judges, whom they accused of carrying out the unjustified sentencing of three members of the political opposition. On November 15, Halifa Sallah, Omar Jallow, and Hamat Bah of Gambia’s National Alliance for Democracy and Development were jailed on what the government said was sedition and possession of government documents. The protesters say the arrests amount to a repudiation by President Jammeh of national elections next October. At the start of the rally at the Gambian Embassy, tempers flared as an embassy secretary was heard making derogatory remarks against the protesters. As the demonstrators moved on toward the State Department, tensions quieted down and the rest of Friday afternoon’s demonstration went peacefully. At the State Department, the organizers of the march, members of a U.S.-based pro-democracy group called “Save the Gambia Democracy Project,” gave a letter expressing their concerns to an official from the State Department’s office of West African Affairs. Pasamba Jow is a member of the Save the Gambia Democracy Project. He told English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser what the protesters hope to accomplish.