The United Nations and human rights groups are calling for an independent investigation, after Ebrima Solo Kurumah, a party official of the Gambian opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), died in state custody.
Kurumah, a local opposition figure, died on Sunday, August 21, after he was moved to a medical facility to receive surgery. It is not clear what the surgery was for, but reports suggest that Kurumah had been repeatedly denied critical medical attention in the past by Gambian authorities.
The Daily Mail reports that Kurumah was arrested in April along with other key opposition party figures for organizing demonstrations demanding for the release of Solo Sandeng, the leader of the UDP’s party youth wing.
Sandeng also died in incarceration.
UN Office of High Commission for Human Rights Spokesman Cecile Pouilly called for an immediate investigation in to the circumstances surrounding the death of Kurumah and condemned his death in state custody, saying, “We deplore the reported death in custody of Solo Krummah.
“We urge the authorities to investigate the death in state custody of Mr. Sandeng and Mr. Kurumah as well as look in to allegations that detainees are denied access to medical care.”
Gambians will head to the polls later in December in an election where incumbent President Yahya Jammeh is widely expected to sweep the polls.
Opposition parties and rights group have repeatedly labeled Gambia’s democracy a sham; President Jammeh has won every election he has contested with landslide votes that sometimes borders on the ludicrous.
President Jammeh, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, regularly makes elaborate pretensions of conducting democratic elections, but in practice, the country remains under the tyrannical grip of Jammeh who continues to govern the Gambia like a private estate.
Ahead of the December elections, Gambian authorities have launched a crackdown against political opponents, with the use of torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and unfair trials to silence the opposition.
President Jammeh’s time in power has also been characterized by the mismanagement of state funds, poor economic performance, and the repression of freedom.