The Association of NGOs in the Gambia (TANGO) Friday, January 19 convened a major national press conference of stakeholders in the non-state sector aimed at marking the resurgence of the Gambian civil society to more effectively engage in the building of the new Gambia.
The press conference premised on the theme ‘The Gambia We Want’ was to launch series of national conversations to enable citizens to determine the destiny of their country.
“We want a transformed Gambia, free from corruption, cronyism, nepotism and injustice,” John Charles Njie, TANGO Chairman said.
The TANGO Chairman highlighted the lessons learnt from the terrible past experiences of Gambians particularly members of the civil society who were complacent, indifferent and far removed from policy processes.
“We want a Gambia where our people will not continue to drown in the ocean of poverty, and non-nationals succeed to syphon our wealth, enabled by greedy public officials,” he asserted.
Njie called for a reformed, motivated and efficient public service, saying public servants should not be dismissed without explanations proffered for the purpose of accountability. He also called for a New Gambia where public officials will publicly declare their assets and not to do so in secret. He added a New Gambia where representatives will not receive gifts without asking the right questions.
“We want a Gambia where respect for human rights and dignity becomes the foundation in dealings between service providers and rights holders,” Njie told stakeholders.
The TANGO Chairman further spoke about a Gambia where politicians will be held accountable to their campaign promises. He reaffirmed the pledge to strengthen the engagement with civil society to build capacity for evidence based development programs that will bring change in the lives of the citizens.
“We tasked the new government to bring about a complete overhaul of the bad governance system and to create a new foundation of a modern democratic state,” he interjected.
Mr Ebrima Garba Cham of the Gambia Workers Union addressed the plight of workers at the conference.
Cham highlighted on the poor salary of workers, wrongful terminations and high cost of living in the country.
“We should build a better Gambia,” Ebrima Garba Cham said.
The veteran activist also elaborated on the unfair terms and conditions of employment, saying the Janneh Commission should not only investigate the former president but to also scrutinize the private sector.
Alieu Bah, a co-founder of the #OccupyWestfield Movement calls for the collective participation of the civil society, saying the Westfield protest was not to instigate chaos but was a demand to basic rights. He referred to a permit as tools used by repressive regimes of the past to deny the people to exercise their rights. He demanded that it should be abolished.
“How could one live in peace without having the basic necessities of life,” Alieu Bah said.
Bah cited the remarks made by Hamat Bah, Minister of Tourism against alleged ‘Bumsters’ to barred them from the beaches which he said is discrimination against black people and must be stopped.
The Secretary General of the Gambia Press Union, Mr Saikou Jammeh raised the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression in the country, saying they want a Gambia where the likes of Deyda Hydara, Omar Barrow and Chief Ebrima Manneh would live and not killed.
He called for the perpetrators to brought to book. He urged the new government to respect the ECOWAS Court rulings on Deyda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh and Musa Saidykhan among others.
Jammeh revealed that the union has engaged the services of a lawyer to prepare a legal paper that will be validated by the civil society to be included in the country’s new constitution.
Several speakers from Child Protection Alliance, The Gambia Federation of the Disabled, Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, The Gambia Bar Association and Gambia Has Decided addressed the conference. There were questions and comments from journalists and the general public.
The press conference was coordinated by Mr Madi Jobarteh and Chaired by Mr Ousman Yarbo, Executive Directive of TANGO.