The Gambia’s main opposition leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe has been released on bail along with 18 other political prisoners following an election defeat of one of Africa’s most oppressive leaders Yahya Jammeh on December 1st presidential polls.
A courtroom packed with supporters cheered and stood to sing the national anthem as Ousainou Darboe was allowed to go home after eight months in the country’s notorious Mile II prison.
While entering court Mr Darboe said he felt “great”, adding that he would forgive dictator Yahya Jammeh, who on Friday conceded the election to President-elect Adama Barrow, former estate agent who became the party leader while Darboe was in prison.
“Nelson Mandela has been a role model to me,” a smiling Darboe told reporters. He said he had done a lot of meditation in jail and that it helped him forgive Jammeh for what he had done to him.
“It’s a new Gambia, I congratulate President Jammeh for accepting defeat. That is acting with maturity. I have respect for him. I would never address him as a crazy man and I never would address him as an evil man.” According to Darboe Jammeh only rigged election to win, “President Jammeh has never won an election in this country, he has only rigged them. He calls himself a democrat, so I think he has no choice but to accept the result of the elections.”
Dictator Yahya Jammeh’s 22 year in power has witnessed many many opposition members, journalists and activists have been arrested, tortured, jailed and sometimes Killed. Among the people killed by Jammeh regime was Solo Sandeng whose death triggered the protests in which Darboe and the others were arrested.
Armed Paramilitary police in riot gears escorted the Darboe and Co from Mile II prison to court and most of the prisoners are old men who had all been beaten when they were arrested for protesting peacefully in April; one of the prisoners, Solo Koroma tragically died in prison while one of them lost his sight in his eye.
As usual, outside the court, the streets were filled with cheering supporters some of whom left work to welcome Darboe and Co. After their bail, the prisoners were escorted to Darboe’s residence amidst wild celebrations on the streets of Banjul and Serekunda.