(JollofNews) – An opposition leader in the Gambia has used his New Year’s message to called on Gambians to be resolute in their determination to resist any move by President Yahya Jammeh’s administration to thwart their wish to elect a government of their choice.
Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who is seeking to challenge Mr Jammeh in the December polls, said the Gambia under the bad leadership of the Jammeh regime has continued to be overwhelmed by serious challenges that requires sustained pragmatic solutions and the collective efforts of Gambians both at home and abroad to confront them.
President Yahya Jammeh, 50, has ruled the West African nation since 1994 with a trademark mix of witchcraft, oppression and anti-colonial rhetoric. Last September, Human Rights Watch banded his regime one of the most repressive in the world, blaming paramilitaries and secret police for torture, disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
The abuses including arbitrary arrest and detention of political opponents, and gruesomely inventive methods of torture. They include melting plastic bags on victims’ skins and inserting hot chili peppers up their rectums.
But despite Mr Jammeh’s firm grip on power, the UDP leader said 2016 is a year of redemption for Gambians and he has complete trust in the ability of Gambians to effect a peaceful and democratic change of government.
“Ours is a great country and we are a great citizen,” he said.
“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.”
Mr Darboe added: “With presidential elections due in less than 12 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 recognise and respect our rights.”
Reminding Gambians of the failures of the Jammeh regime, the UDP leader said while many countries in Africa are registering tremendous economic and social progress with annual growth figures in some places as high as 7 per cent, the Gambia, is engulfed in economic hardship with no end in sight.
He added: “Unemployment, particularly among the youth is increasing daily and it’s at the moment estimated to be above 60 per cent. 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.”
Mr Darboe said instead of utilising the meagre resources of Gambians to alleviate the country’s problems, the APRC regime is lavishing their 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.
Reacting to Mr Jammeh’s declaration of the Gambia as an Islamic state, the UDP leader said: “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.”
Mr Darboe paid homage to ‘heroes and heroines’ of the Gambia who died from beatings and tortures meted out to them by the security apparatus of the brutal dictatorship of Mr Jammeh.
He said his party will continue to demand the unconditional release of its party members Amadou Sanneh and Kanyiba Kanyi and other prisoners and detainees currently languishing in state custody.