By Alhagie Jobe
A lead women’s rights activist in The Gambia today, Friday, September 2, 2016 officially launched her candidacy for President of The Gambia at a well-attended ceremony held at the famous Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.
Dr Isatou Touray, who is the Executive Director of The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children (GAMCOTRAP) is Gambia’s first female to declare her intention to stand for president and will be standing as an Independent Candidate with Motto “Equality and unity for change and progress”.
In 2014 on International Women’s Day, she was named among the world’s ‘Bravest Women’ and spent more than three decades campaigning against female genital mutilation (FGM). Due to her great job, FGM has finally been outlawed in The Gambia since 2015.
In a statement on her official website earlier, Dr Touray said “if elected, I will restore the sovereignty of the people, end impunity and decentralize authority and power”. She added “I intend to serve only one term, during which period, I would work with all the existing parties and Gambians ready and willing to steer The Gambia towards a direction that will enable it to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people.”
Hundreds of supporters, well-wishers and Gambians from all walks of life attended the grand launching with hope for change in the upcoming December 2016 presidential elections.
Amie Bojang-Sissoho who introduced her long time friend and co-worker Dr Isatou Touray to the Gambian people, described her as honest and loyal, qualities she said made is behind their friendship for the past decades. She thanked Gambians in The Gambia and the diaspora for the support and trust bestowed on Dr Touray.
Bojang-Sissoho narrated what she called a true fact about Dr Touray saying “what am saying today is between me and Allah. I am telling you Dr Touray has the highest regards for everyone and she stands for the advancement of all Gambians. She helped the destitute young or old. She always makes sure that everyone is given the right to survive. She has done this work throughout her life. Isatou Touray is not only an activist but a female activist who always address the issue of women”.
She recalled her unlawful imprisonment ordeal and the morale support she received from Dr Touray during those difficult. Passing through those difficult times she said gave both her and Dr. Touray the strength to help restore democracy and rule of law in the country. She then apologized to the diplomatic guests at the event for not using the diplomatic language in the various speeches saying they are activists in their own rights.
According to her, Dr Touray is not divisive and she believes that The Gambia belongs to all men and women saying if we do not stand up, our dilemma will not be resolved. “If it is about human rights, Dr Touray is a star. If it is development, Isatou is a star. Hope is why we pray. Hope is why we go out. Today, I am proud to stand near Dr Touray to give her my unflinching support because I know her. If you trust Dr Touray to lead the affairs of our country, justice and the rights of our citizens will be the norm. Dr Touray has led many men and women, young and old, and listened to them in a dignified manner. Fellow Gambians, I entrust to you my friend, my mentor, Dr Isatou Touray and I fully endorse her as President in the 2016 Presidential elections” Bojang-Sissoho concluded in tears of joy.
She finally thanked all Gambians especially Diaspora Gambians who stood up to make sure this event is covered today through the radios and TVs. She also thanked Aja Fatoumatta Tambajang who she described as a mentor, mother and sister for guiding them in the right path.
For her part, Aja Fatoumatta Tambajang expressed delight and honour to attend such a historic event. According to her, she knew Dr Touray and her friend Amie Bojang-Sissoho for the past 16 years during her work at the United Nations.
“Dr Touray is someone who is pious, respects her elders and honourable. I am not here to praise her but to tell the truth from Allah’s point of view to remove dictatorship from our country. 17 years ago, I prayed to Allah to help me add my voice to restoring democracy in The Gambia because I looked at my family, seeing nothing but sadness.
According to her, Allah does not oppress people and said in the Quran that “I am with the oppressed, not the oppressor”. She said this is why for 17 years, she stopped working and decided to wear her rags and join the fight for The Gambia.
“I decided to be an individual who does not belong to any party but the welfare of my country at large. If I die today, I will be at peace because you have made me proud. When you find me at UDP, you think I belong there, same at NCP and same will you see me with Dr Touray too because I am doing it for my country not a party” she clearly stated.
She urged Dr Touray and Bojang-Sissoho not to be afraid especially to President Jammeh’s notorious NIA officers whom she said are in the ceremony. “I am not afraid of Yahya Jammeh or his Para military because I have Allah. I fear no one but Allah. He needs to release all the women including Ousainou Darboe and others because their arrest is baseless” she said.
Madam Tambajang also called on Gambians to come out in droves – the educated, youths, men and women and support Dr Touray. “If you vote for APRC, you have destroyed yourself” Tambajang concluded.
Meanwhile, the support by Gambians in the Diaspora was also recognized at the event and a video message by Coach Pasamba Jow was shared with the crowd. Mr Jow expressed the Diaspora Gambian’s support to Dr Touray.
Alhagie Dr Malang Touray, the husband, friend and confidant of Dr Isatou Touray also mounted the podium to honour his great wife. He thanked all previous speakers for the nice words on her wife.
According to him, Dr Touray who he is married to 38 years now and mother of four children has been so caring and values the family and her work. He said Dr Touray’s love and care for children is why she cares so much about the girl child, a goal she has been willing to devote all her energy into to achieve.
“She is like tea bag in water. The hotter it is, the stronger she is. She is a loving wife, a gender activist and does all of this together without affecting her family activities. Above all, she loves The Gambia and Gambians. The children Fatoumatta, Naima and Sally and I wholeheartedly endorse and support your candidacy because we know all you do is to serve people. Gambia, I hereby present to you Dr Isatou Touray, an Independent Candidate with a symbol of change and progress” Dr Touray’s husband concluded.
With a standing ovation and Gambia’s flag been raised all over the hall by the crowd in attendance, the woman of substance and Independent Presidential candidate Dr Isatou Touray mounted the podium to give her acceptance speech.
She first and foremost recognized the presence of colleagues leader of the UDP Adama Barrow and representatives from the NCP party as well as Aja Fatoumatta Tambajang who she said has been a mentor to her.
According to her, Gambians are hard working people and she had traversed all corners of the country and has heard the stories and people’s frustration and she is motivated by people’s immense desire for change. She said too much power is in few hands and those in power are not accountable. She repeated her stance not to serve more than a term of 5 years saying she intends to serve only one term during which period she will work with all the existing parties and Gambians willing to steer the Gambia in a good direction.
“I will not serve more than a term of 5 years. I am committed, if elected, to work with all those who have the capacity and commitment to salvage the Gambia as it titters to a state of collapse. Together, we can bring the change that is needed. Principles must not be compromised and everything I learned with women, men and youths and academics, tells me Gambians need a president who will respect the rule of law, good governance and a government that will bring economic prosperity to Gambians” she said.
Dr Touray made it clear that true democracy deserves the participation of all citizens based on the common good. She said Gambians today face a dire situation with the APRC regime. She called on every Gambian to support her in the quest to bring the country out of isolation.
“Human rights frameworks and perspective will be at the center of our work. The APRC has brought this country to an economic collapse. Human rights abuses are alarming. It is time for him to go” she said, adding together, they will create jobs for the youths, the rule of law and the protection of women’s rights in the Gambia.
She categorically rejected the call to turn The Gambia into an Islamic State saying it will only bring division and set hatred against each other. “I will uphold the secularism of The Gambia. I will bring the smile back to the faces of the people of the Smiling Coast” she promised.
Dr Touray saluted people in the Diaspora particularly few whom she called ‘Vanguards’ for the excellent job they have done to make the day a success namely Neneh Bojang, Ndey Jobarteh, Tuku Jallow, Yaya Darboe, Ebrima Dibba, Coach Pasamba Jow and others. For her, such a journey could not have been a success without the people’s support and perspectives.
Other speakers at the event included representatives from all regions of the country.
Amara Tunkara from URR delivered remarks in Sarahule in support of Dr Touray’s candidature, Momodou Keita, representing CRR North made similar remarks.
Mari Baldeh from Basse Girroba Kunda on behalf the URR delegation announced their total approval Dr Touray saying URR which is biggest region is behind her.
Neneh B Bojang from West Coast Region also announced the backing and support they have for Dr Touray. She said “The West Coast Region is here to nominate Dr. Isatou Touray as candidate for President. We have the right to vote for whoever we feel. Thus, Dr Isatou Touray, we the youths from the West Coast Region back you.”
Landing Kinteh from LRR thanked Dr Touray for the opportunity and support accorded over the past and endorsed her on behalf of the people of his region.
Jali Nyama, who is Dr Touray’s local griot entertaining the guests said she knew Dr Touray from the days she was a student adding that since her childhood days, Dr Touray had great values which she got from her mother. She said Dr Touray has always been kind, humble, caring and loving.
Ba Kawsu Manneh delivered the opening Muslim prayers while Sister Priscillia led the Christian prayers.