By Shout-Africa Gambia Correspondent – The Minister of the Interior, Ousman Sonko, has denied media reports of a hunger strike embarked upon by inmates at the maximum security wing of the State Central Prison Mile 2.
His comments followed reports on Monday that inmates at the prison have started a hunger strike since Thursday 20th October in protest against what they considered “unbearable and inhuman treatment that they say are prevailing at the central prisons.”
In an interview with this paper yesterday, Interior Minister Ousman Sonko said “there was no hunger strike at Mile 2 prison” as reported.
“When I read Foroyaa newspaper on Monday 24th October, I directed my Permanent Secretary to contact the Prison authorities for clarification of the said report and, according to the PS, there was no hunger strike at the prison,” he said, adding that he asked the PS to write a rejoinder to the article.
According to Minister Sonko, there exists a prisons visiting committee that comprises the prison authorities, a member of the National Assembly, a member of the Department of Social Welfare and a member of the Ministry of the Interior.
“They visit the prisons on a weekly basis and, whenever they do so, they submit reports and issues raised are addressed accordingly,” Sonko said.
Asked why the prisons are congested, Minister Sonko said the prisons were built during the colonial period and during that period, the population was very small and the crime rates were very low.
“The population and crime rates were very low then compared to today, when the population has increased and crime also has increased,” he added.
Further asked about rumours that some inmates have completed their prison terms, but are still languishing in detention, Sonko said inmates who have completed their prison term are released on the very day, as stipulated in the warrant.
“It is up to the prison authorities to know when an inmate was jailed and the day he or she should be released, based on the warrants given to them by the courts,” the Interior minister added.