First, is to commemorate those brave Gambians who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Gambian’s full sovereignty. Second, how the hard-gained and long-awaited independence and the dream associated with it turned out to be a disastrous fiasco, especially for the Gambian youth who are languishing indefinitely in the ‘so-called’ national military service; and as a consequence, risking their lives to escape the hopeless situation at home under Yaya Jammeh regime.
Gambia has become a new sovereign state in the Horn of Africa ever since the ultimate victory sealed on the 18thof February 1965. This milestone is the result of heavy sacrifices paid by founding fathers. Gambia’s history for self-determination struggle is full of heroism and self-reliance; recounting that history is certainly beyond the scope of a single article. Every year on the 18th February, Gambians celebrate independence day to pay respect to those heroic patriots who paid with their lives for their country’s full sovereignty. The national pride Gambia’s independence brought about cannot be disputed.
In the mist of all this great success, of course, today the majority of Gambians commiserate with the Gambian people for the sad situation the country is in. Some commiserate independence day silently and others publicly, by voicing their rejection of the dictatorial regime ruling Gambia with an iron fist.
Gambians need to remember the brilliant heroic stories of our martyrs, which we have some of them. We need to put our disagreements aside on this day, as it defines the destiny of our nation. But at the same time, we should continue fighting to free the Gambian people from the grip of the authoritarian regime which is humiliating our people day in day out, and decide to change the present course of events by acting collectively to reverse the current dire situation.
To be fair, let us now look at what have been ‘achieved’ during the last 51 years of ‘independence’? According to both first and second republic regimes staunch supporters, the answer is a lot. That is not true! According to the opponents of the both regimes, the answer is none. That is inaccurate assessment either! The truth of the matter is a modest progress has been made in some areas (e.g. infrastructure, agriculture, potable water facilities, health clinics, etc.). It is difficult to utterly deny these achievements. However, In the last 21 years the means by which this progress has been made is morally questionable and unacceptable to any decent human being. Development at the expense of human dignity and freedom should be rejected. Could Gambia has been in a better position politically, economically & socially had all Gambians given equal opportunity to freely participate in politics and rebuild their country? Certainly yes!
For me, the important issue is not about whether progress has been recorded or not in many areas of life. My argument against the Jammeh regime’s failure to take the country in the right course stems from its appalling human rights record- primarily extra-judicial killings, incommunicado imprisonment and youth exploitation. Yaya Jammeh crimes against the Gambian people are numerous; some are committed directly at the hands of its ruthless security apparatus and others indirectly by forcing Gambian, especially the youth, to take desperate measures. Since Jammeh took power in Gambia, a sizable number of Gambians horrifically killed and many others disappeared under mysterious circumstances. These crimes brought so much agony to the victims’ families in particular and to the populace in general.
The very saddening and troubling issue about Gambia is the country has been emptied of its youth. Gambian youth at home are living without hope and future, and a necessary question to be asked is, what kind of citizens are they going to be? Gambia is going to have a generation of unemployed and hopeless youth. Under such conditions, the future is bleak and very frightening to contemplate. In the past 3 years Gambians tragically lost their lives after a boat in which they were travelling capsized in the Mediterranean Sea and almost all of them drowned and perished in a very tragic circumstance. The death of these innocent people – including children and women –demonstrates how desperate Gambians are at home. They are daring to embark on a high risky mission to reach Italy in search of a better life in Europe. They were compelled to embark on a treacherous high risky journey escaping oppression and gloom future at home. The relentless hardship Gambian youth are enduring at home is unprecedented. Similar tragic incidents happened in the past and will happen in the future, so long as Gambians are facing relentless hardship in their home country.
Now is the time for Gambian’s in Gambia to go all out and vote againts the murderer and Gambian in diasporato come together under one umbrella to restore and demand their dignity and freedom snatched away from them by Jammeh. If we are to defeat the dictatorship, attitude change is an absolute must! If we can’t come up with our own, let us adapt Jesse Jackson’s “Keep hope alive!” or better yet, Obama’s “Yes we can!”
Happy 51 independence for the Gambia Our Homeland.
Ousman JC Darboe
Youth and Human Rights Activists