(JollofNews)- My fellow Gambians, my name is Omar Amadou Jallow. I am the interim secretary general of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). On behalf of the PPP, I wish to take this occasion to wish each and every one of you, and your families, a happy, healthy, prosperous 2016.
This is also a moment of reflection, because 2015, has been a difficult year for the Gambia, and we look forward to 2016 with hope and optimism. Many of us lost loved ones, including myself, yet we also celebrated the arrival of new members to our families. So we are very grateful to God for all the countless blessings. We are grateful for family and friends, especially those in the diaspora, who are burdened with supporting the less fortunate.
On behalf of the PPP, I also wish to take this opportunity to denounce Yahya Jammeh’s recent unilateral declaration, that The Gambia is now an “Islamic State”. This is not only another meaningless, inconsequential pronouncement, but it’s also counter to our secular constitution and entrenched tradition. Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara built and maintained an exemplary, harmonious and tolerant society, without infringing on, or threatening anyone’s belief system. It should remain so, hence, this is an unnecessary and juvenile proclamation.
Yahya Jammeh illegally seized power through the barrel of the gun in 1994, promising to end perceived corruption, vowing to stay in power no more than 10 years. My question is, how has he kept those promises? Today, corruption under Yahya Jammeh is on steroids for someone who claims to be a “Pan-Africanist”.
We all know Yahya Jammeh’s illegal business interests, and the KGI holdings have permeated and dominated every industry in the Gambia; from bakeries, transportation, land holdings, farms, to name a few. Yet, in 21 years, Yahya Jammeh, has not established any institution or job programme that has provided continuous employment for citizens over a period of a year. The pretentious employment he touts are for his personal businesses, ran by the “Green boys” and paramilitary forces, who are not under any contract or fixed salary.
These are the very reasons our youths are risking their lives by going through the backway in pursuit of better economic opportunities. There are more Gambian migrants per capita, than any other country not in an open war fare. We are yet to see a recognition or admission, by the APRC regime, of this major demographic issue and depletion of our youth and human resources. These resources could have been better utilised in infrastructure development, technological advancement and or the depleting agricultural sector that, in addition to everything else, is hampered by natural calamities.
The first responsibility of any responsible president is to implement policies that would improve the lives of the citizens, increase their economic and social security. Yahya Jammeh has failed miserably in that respect. On the economic front, Gambians are enduring some of the highest cost of living in the sub-region. The quality of life, or standard of living in The Gambia continues to decline significantly, because citizens can no longer afford the prohibitive cost of basic goods and services they need to live in dignity. Gambians are spending a disproportionate percentage of their meagre incomes just to buy basic goods and services.
Today, in many homes, families are no longer able to afford the traditional three square meals a day, and most can no longer even afford fish, much less meat, without remittances from the Diaspora. In 1994, a quality 50 kilo bag of rice was D150 at most, today, a lesser quality cost D1, 300 –D1, 500! This price constitutes some 50% of the monthly income of most members of the security forces, or teachers. You be the judge if that is a sustainable and harmonious state of affairs. This is a massive failure of the APRC government under Yaya Jammeh, that after 21 years, the average Gambian is experiencing low level malnutrition and hunger.
My fellow Gambians, 2015 has been a difficult and challenging year, and no Gambian is proud of the direction of our country under 21 years of Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship, massive corruption and mismanagement of the affairs of the country. You can look at any developmental indicator – political, economic, employment, agricultural, educational, human rights and social norms – you will come to the conclusion that, the Gambia has been and is still under a critical decline. To affirm this, all you need to do is, evaluate your own situation, your friends’ or families’, and ask whether you are happy or proud of where we are as a country.
The year 2016 will be pivotal in ending dictatorship in the Gambia, and charting a new course for equal opportunity for all, respect for human rights and a competitive environment for strong economic development. The PPP has several campaign tours lined up for a long and grueling campaign season, culminating in the general elections. The PPP hopes to be part of a strong and united coalition, to fight this election together. We demand the resignation of the current and illegal chairman, Mustapha Carayol, and also demand electoral reforms for a free, fair and peaceful outcome in 2016. With your help, we can and shall end this prolonged nightmare under Yahya Jammeh. The PPP has a proven record of running the affairs of this country smoothly with dignity. Under Sir Dawda’s leadership, the PPP:
· Peacefully steered the affairs of the country for almost three decades
· The Gambia had a stellar human rights record that was respected globally
· We nurtured a strong economic growth that withstood challenging times
· We built a strong education system that met most international standards
· The Agricultural sector flourished and sparked economic growth under PPP
· The Tourism industry boosted job creation and stimulated small business growth
· The Transportation system was affordable and effective in moving people and goods across the country
· The Dalasi was one of the strongest currencies in Africa under the PPP regime
Compare the aforementioned achievements and the state of the country today, are we better or worse off? We are seeking your support and help in bringing about the needed change to resurrect our comatose economy, foster a sustainable development and restore the dignity we so deserve as a people.
The Gambia’s human rights record, under the APRC, remains abysmal and the cause of international isolation and chastisement. The PPP is convinced that human and people’s rights are important inputs in development, and our differences must be respected and protected. We call for the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the investigation of all disappearances and mysterious deaths since 1994. Too much blood has been shed, and too many families have been crying far too long. We demand the release of all political prisoners of conscience, icluding Amadou Sanneh, Ebou Jobe, Alagie Mamut Ceesay and countless others. We demand justice for the April 2000 students, Koro Ceesay, Deyda Hydara, Chief Manneh, Daba Marenah and others. We support travel bans and freezing of assets of anyone associated with persecuting and disappearing Gambians.
My fellow Gambians, when it comes to foreign relations, the Gambia needs and demands a reset of our relations with Senegal. Our relations with Senegal, under Yaya Jammeh, has reached its lowest point, causing hardship, tension and suspicions. Publicly disrespecting and admonishing foreign leaders, especially Senegal, is neither bravado nor machismo, but a sign of immaturity and or insanity. The Gambia cannot develop peacefully and efficiently with the way relations are with Senegal. We need a mutually beneficial co-existence and relation based on respect and pragmatism. Yahya Jammeh’s recent public tantrums are counter to what ECOWAS has been trying to achieve in regionalism, and no wonder Gambia has lost its cherished place of respect among our peers, and the reason why Jammeh has never chaired ECOWAS, in 21 years. In the third republic, the PPP will reset our relations with Senegal, the Commonwealth and other responsible development partners.
My fellow Gambians, all is not yet lost. The year 2016 will be a great opportunity to remove the Gambia from being a pariah nation under Yahya Jammeh, to being a responsible member of the international community. Gambia deserves better than a belligerent, bombastic president like Yahya Jammeh who has failed to improve the lives of Gambians, and has failed in every indicator. It’s time to hold him accountable to the promises he made in 1994 when he seized power through violence. We will not rest until democracy, dignity and the rule of law is restored in the Gambia. May God bless us all and our dear Gambia.