Friday, January 27

Omnipresent Military Checkpoints – Supreme Court to Rule on Dr. Gajigo Vs Attorney General

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The Supreme Court of The Gambia is set to rule in the case filed in 2019 by Dr. Ousman Gajigo, a Gambian who challenged having military checkpoints across the country during peacetime and in the absence of any security emergency. The defendant in the case is the Attorney General for The State of The Gambia. In seeking the Supreme Court intervention, Ousman Gajigo upholds that the government is justifying the military checkpoints’ presence by over-interpreting the Commander in Chief and Chief of Defence Staff’s powers.

According to Dr. Gajogo, a reasonable interpretation by the Supreme Court of even the flawed Jammeh constitution or the Armed Forces Act should show that those powers do not extend to permanently giving police roles to the military.

Many commuters have complained of the numerous military checkpoints across the country, including Kalagi, Jongon, Farafenni, Pakaliba, Kudang, and Basse. At these checkpoints, the soldiers stop every vehicle that passes through them. In some cases, they search and impound cars.

Stating his beef with the multiple military checkpoints, Dr. Gajigo asserts that the military’s role is to preserve territorial integrity against external aggression. According to him, setting up and operating checkpoints within the country during peacetime is an internal law enforcement activity called the police’s role. He believes that by allowing the military to stop traffic and search vehicles (which entails detention), the government is engaging in the violation of Gambians’ civil rights.

A soldier at one of the multiple military checkpoints in The Gambia

There have been several incidents where Gambian soldiers drew their weapons during interactions with civilians, even when the situation did not warrant it. The claimant himself (Ousman Gajigo) had an incident in Kalagi in 2019 where a soldier pointed a loaded gun at him.

Dr. Ousman Gajigo argues that the appropriate solution is to upgrade the police’s armed unit to carry out the necessary patrols rather than give a role to the army that does not have the constitutional mandate. Moreover, the armed police unit is already operating multiple checkpoints all over The Gambia.

The plaintiff further argues that the military checkpoints imply a misallocation of functions that lead to individuals’ rights violations. According to him, it delays the needed security reforms that The Gambia urgently needs.

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