chairperson f the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA) has clarified
that the diaspora CSO is not a political party, nor do they hold a partisan
Speaking to The Point in an interview, Ms. Sohna Sallah explained they felt the need to clarify DUGA’s position and role in New Gambia… “That is a question we are constantly asked, we do not want rumours and perceptions affecting our non-partisan work,” she said
“DUGA will continue its role as a civil society organisation, and our work will include engaging our leaders to promote rule of law and good governance. In addition, we will go into our communities, and engage our citizens in civic education and programmes to empower the different demographic groups, especially women and youth,” she further explained.
According to the Washington-based activist, such an engagement for the group will also be a learning tool for them, as many of their members are from the diaspora: “The immersion in our communities will help us bridge the ‘us and them’ gap, connect with citizens and discover their real concerns, rather than what we perceive as concerns from afar.
This will help them structure our programs to directly address the real needs and concerns of the Gambian society.
Their group had engaged in, and sustained a consistent campaign against Yahya Jammeh and his emissaries within the US jurisdiction, from his Potomac mansion to the UN Headquarters in New York. “DUGA has had many shake-ups over the years; but I believe the one that really put us on the map was the (Gambian) Embassy takeover,” Sallah recalled.
“Also, in collaboration with other Gambian activists and civil society organisations we had also held Jammeh hostage at his hotels in both New York and Washington DC. DUGA’s Senegal trip was also great as the publicity further highlighted the brutality of the Jammeh regime,” she further stated.
“The most recent splash we made was during the impasse in December 2016, when Zineb Jammeh thought it was business as usual and came to the Potomac mansion in the US. We made sure we made our presence felt and that The Gambia has decided! The most heartwarming part, The Gambian community came out in multitudes to support us,” she added.
The group’s chair believes protest is a valid tool to show discontent or express concern; a means to amplify the voices of the unheard. “However, we also looked at it as a last resort against the Jammeh regime when the cries of the nation kept falling off deaf ears. If the regime didn’t listen, we will shout it to the world,” she argued.
Ms. Sallah explained that they had many protests in the US, there was always police present, but every protest started and ended with handshakes and pleasantries between the protesters and the police. Even the embassy takeover where we were arrested, it was not an accident that we came out in a line…, she added.
“Protest is only the manifestation of an underlying discontent. The root of most discontent is inequality and injustice, and that is a bigger threat to security than the actual protest. Quelling a protest only suppresses the symptom; until the root cause of the discontent is addressed, that threat will always be there,” she said.