Fellow Gambians, and friends living in and outside The Gambia; As we usher in the year 2016, it gives me great pleasure to extend to you on my own behalf and on behalf of the entire membership of the United Democratic Party, my sincere and best wishes.
As a nation, Gambia continues to be overwhelmed by serious challenges that require sustained pragmatic solutions. Most of these challenges are due to bad leadership and require our collective efforts to confront them.
While many countries in Africa are registering tremendous economic and social progress with annual growth figures in some places as high as 7%, The Gambia, is engulfed in economic hardship with no end in sight. Unemployment, particularly among the youth is increasing daily and it’s at the moment estimated to be above 60%. The cream of our country’s future, the youths, are now fleeing the Gambia in their large numbers using the “back way” to reach Europe. Many are perishing in the desert sands of North Africa and the high seas of the Mediterranean where ship wreckages have become their watery graves.
The spiraling hike in the prices of commodities without increase in the earning capacity of Gambians continue to make it difficult for the average Gambian to afford a decent two square meals a day. Farmers’ produce, particularly groundnut, the mainstay of the economy, have still not been bought. Our women continue to die from unsafe child labour while children continue to die from preventable diseases thanks to a crumbling health system where the basic drugs and equipment are unavailable.
Instead of utilizing our meagre resources to alleviate the country’s problems, the APRC regime lavishes our taxes and other public funds on grand festivals, musical jamborees and countless celebrations that defy all logic for anyone who has conscience and indeed the Gambia at heart.
Respect for human and people’s rights remains in the doldrums with the independent press repeatedly harassed and gagged, and political opposition brutally suppressed. We continue to mourn our fallen companions – heroes and heroines, who died from beatings and tortures meted out to them by the security apparatus of this brutal dictatorship. We will continue to demand the unconditional release of one of our leaders Amadou Sanneh currently languishing in jail as a result of politically motivated charges. We also continue to demand the freeing of all other prisoners and detainees of conscience, including journalist Alhaji Abdoulie Ceesay. We shall never relent in our demand to know the whereabouts
of UDP’s Kanyiba Kanyi, Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, and the two US nationals of Gambian origin, Ebou Jobe and Alhagie Mamut Ceesay who mysteriously disappeared under the regime.
Fellow Gambians, the year 2015 witnessed events in The Gambia that have marveled not only the ordinary citizens but the world at large. It was a year that saw the mass release of different categories of prisoners including rapists, murderers and international drug dealers who made The Gambia the target of their nefarious activities because of our weak control systems. Alleged coup plotters and other prisoners convicted for committing misdemeanor were also set free with supposed motive of national reconciliation. However, political prisoners like Amadou Sanneh and other prisoners of conscience are still languishing in jail.
We have also seen serious efforts by the government to not only stifle dissent by attempting to stop the UDP from conducting its peaceful political activities with its constituents but has passed an electoral law that constricts the democratic space in The Gambia. The UDP shall use all lawful means to combat this obnoxious electoral amendment which shakes the very fabric of our democratic foundation.
2015 also witnessed some of the most outlandish statements made by the President one of which is a direct assault on the secularity of our republican status. In late November 2015, the President in complete disregard for the constitution, declared the Gambia an Islamic State at a public rally in Brufut Village. The declaration is not only another indication of the misrule that has prevailed for so long, but also an attempt to plant the seeds of discord among the citizens who up to now have been living in peace and harmony. Such irresponsible statement could lead to religious zealotry and extremism. What practical benefit would the citizens derive from this declaration? How will the declaration of an Islamic State be received by our international development partners and potential tourists? Will this declaration be just another exercise of empty rhetoric just to indulge in mock battles with his imagined imperialists? If the latter is the case, it will further isolate The Gambia in the international community. It is clear that this was ill thought out and completely misguided.
With presidential elections due in less than twelve months, Gambians should be resolute in their determination to resist any move by the administration to thwart their wish to elect a government of their choice. From now on, no parent or school authority should allow children to line the roads to cheer presidential convey. Gambians should boycott all goods and services offered or run by his (President’s) family enterprise (KGI).
As for Gambians in the diaspora whose concern about the nations plight has been remarkable and appreciated by all, it is time for them to intensify their quest for the restoration of democracy in the Gambia and continue to expose the regime’s brutality. These actions may look insignificant but if taken on a collective and sustained basis, they would have the desired impact of forcing the regime to recognize and respect our rights.
Fellow Gambians, ours is a great country and we are a great citizen. We have the ability to peacefully change this near hopeless situation of our country, and leave a legacy that generations unborn will be proud of. This however, we cannot accomplish unless we rededicate ourselves to the building of a just and equitable society. I therefore appeal to every citizen to approach the affairs of this nation dispassionately and as true patriots, and this we must do “towards the common good” as we are enjoined by our national anthem. 2016 is The Gambia’s year of redemption.
On behalf of the entire membership of the United Democratic Party (UDP), and on my own behalf, I wish you all a pleasant and prosperous 2016, endowed with peace and tranquillity. May God the Almighty bless us all.
Long live the Gambia
Long live the UDP
Banjul, The Gambia
1st January, 2016