Dec 7, 2009, 12:47 PM
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, leader of the Opposition United Democratic Party, (UDP), has described as “pivotal”, the year 2011, “in which Gambians will have to decide from among competing visions in elections scheduled to take place in the coming months”.
In his traditional New Year message, the UDP leader said that the New Year offers an opportunity for re-evaluating one’s personal and communal life with a view to resolving to build on our progress and re-assessing goals and activities that have fallen short of their anticipated potential.
“Regrettably, 2010 continued to manifest the Gambia government’s appalling record of how it treats its citizens, especially political opponents, perceived or real, and its own supporters alike,” Darboe stated.
According to him, the year gone by has been an eventful year in many respects.
“It has been a difficult year full of broken dreams and failed expectations for the average Gambian, whose economic lot has not changed at all. To the contrary, it has been a year of hardship and vicissitudes, both on the economic as well as the political levels. The prices of commodities needed for basic sustenance continue to be on the increase, yet the means and wherewithal to obtain these commodities remain unreachable for the average Gambian,” he noted.
What follows is the full text of Lawyer Ousainou Darboe’s statement.
Once again, I have the pleasure and singular honour to send you all, Gambians and non Gambians living among us, greetings as we begin this New Year.
As usual, the New Year comes closely after two major religious feasts: the Muslim feast of Tamharit or Yomal Asura, which is the beginning of the Muslim lunar year, and the Christian festive season of Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus Christ. I wish, therefore, to extend my personal greetings to all who celebrate these feasts, and wish them many more celebrations to come. The significance of these feasts, for both Muslims and Christians, lie in expression of our gratitude to Allah the Almighty for letting us live through the past year in good health, and our anticipation and hope for a better year to come. To those members of our larger Gambian family who were with us in the previous New Year, but have sadly passed away or otherwise have been afflicted with illness or some other unexpected tragedy, I offer my prayers and condolences.
Fellow Gambians, the New Year offers an opportunity for re-evaluating one’s personal and communal life, with a view to resolving to build on our progress and re-assessing goals and activities that have fallen short of their anticipated potential. Regrettably, 2010 continued to manifest the
The year gone by has been an eventful year in many respects. It has been a difficult year full of broken dreams and failed expectations for the average Gambian whose economic lot has not changed at all. To the contrary, it has been a year of hardship and vicissitudes, both on the economic as well as the political levels.
The prices of commodities needed for basic sustenance continue to be on the increase, yet the means and wherewithal to obtain these commodities remain unreachable for the average Gambian. Employment opportunities, particularly for the young people, are virtually a farfetched dream. It is no wonder, therefore, that every young person wants to go to
The public sector, the biggest single employment outlet, the army, police and prison services take the largest intake are saturated, and hundreds are turned away. A great number of school leavers and graduates from the proliferation of IT schools who come out with certificates and diplomas have no possibility of getting employed.
There is still, after sixteen years of APRC rule, no tangible comprehensive plan to cater for the steady influx of young men and women who, every year, look up to government for solace and leadership, which they never get. The scanty employment opportunities, the non-existence of encouragement of small and medium-size businesses and entrepreneurs, and small self-employment ventures are what exacerbate the problem. May be government does not see this as a priority. The country is worst off for it.
The few local industries like the fisheries sector have now shrunk to virtually zero, despite the establishment of over a dozen functional and viable fishing centres, with donor assistance. We recall in the not too distant past the existence of several factories processing fish for export and for local consumption. These are all things of the past. Our fish resources are now being exploited by foreign vessels, and the country receives virtually a pittance in return. An important employment possibility is lost to us. It is important for government to look at this industry with a view to making necessary reforms that would accrue maximum value from this important economic activity.
The difficulties of the tourism industry, one of our largest single employment possibilities, particularly for young people, has not improved much over the past year, despite new hotels being put up. We still believe that the problem is not only one of organization, but one of political credibility. This major foreign currency earner must be nurtured by improving our own management of the industry to attract high spending tourists.
The rule of law and constitutionality has been tested during the year 2010 and the United Democratic Party has, particularly, suffered for it. The arrest, trial and conviction of Mr. Femi Peters, the party’s former Campaign Manager, will go down as a travesty of justice. It was a direct assault on freedom of speech, the right to assemble and the free and unimpeded participation of political parties in shaping the political will of the people, as guaranteed by the Constitution and recognized by the Election Decree and the Memorandum of Understanding subscribed to by all political parties in The Gambia. Mr. Peters’ conviction heralds the beginning of action that is directed at undermining the credibility and integrity of the election, due later this year.
The decision of the Inspector-General of Police to prosecute Mr. Peters, and his subsequent conviction by the court should be seen by all those who value democracy and rule of law as a conviction of those very values and of those who uphold and cherish them. Mr. Peters has now served his term of imprisonment with fortitude and courage, and all of us served with him. He has never been alone. The international and national indignation and outcry resulting from this conviction is ample testimony of the injustice of this saga.
As we welcome him in our midst, we look forward to his full assumption of his new responsibilities as Administrative Secretary in charge of Foreign Relations, a post that he was unanimously elected to, in absentia, at the National Congress in Soma
With the forthcoming elections, the media has a primordial role to play in its credibility and fairness. The media’s role in the dissemination of information and differing opinions is accepted, and recognized by all democratic governments as a sine qua non for good governance. The official media, particularly GRTS, must, in the interest of the nation, not only be objective in the dissemination of information, but must also cover the activities of all political parties.
It has become traditional now for us to remember every year our fellow Gambians, who have not been with their families for a long time now and whose whereabouts or state of health are unknown to us. We think, particularly, of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, and the UDP’s own Eastern Kombo Constituency Secretary Kanyiba Kanyi, who were abducted almost five years ago by state agents, and have not been seen or heard of since. We add our voice, once again, to the worldwide condemnation of their detention and demand, in spirit of the peace and good epitomized by the two religious events of Tamhaeret and Christmas, that we have just celebrated, that these Gambian brothers be charged and brought before the courts or released.
My fellow Gambians, the relations between us and our brothers and sisters in
Recent events known to all of us have shown that a few missteps could create misunderstanding that could harm this privileged relationship. We in the United Democratic Party, therefore, call on those in authority to objectively find ways and means of resolving what to us is seemingly not an intractable problem.
We have just experienced seasonal rains that have been not only abundant, but in some cases devastating. Disastrous floods have been experienced in several areas of the country, particularly the
The abundance of rains has led also to a good harvest, particularly of our main cash crop groundnuts. Our hard working farmers expect to receive a fair and adequate return for their produce, and it is our hope that with the official producer price now announced, there will be adequate funds to purchase these nuts, so that the need would not arise for farmers to resort to selling their produce across the border.
A defining event in the annals of the United Democratic Party was the holding of the National Congress in Soma in June, 2010. Not only did it bring together a record number of delegates from all the constituencies, but the quality of officials elected to lead the party into the second decade of the millennium, starting with the 2011 election, indicate the hope and trust that the Gambian people have in our party to dig this country out of the quagmire that it presently finds itself.
As we have done since our inception in 1996, the UDP will continue in its dedicated pursuit of its founding principles of justice, democracy, peace, development, and the rule of law for the Gambian people. Embarking on this crucial journey in a political environment rife with repression and injustice invariably entails paying a price, and over the years members of our party have lost their lives, their liberties, their properties as they stand up to defend rights they strongly believe every Gambian deserves. We have rededicated ourselves at the Congress to continue on this sacred path until victory.
2011 is a pivotal year in which Gambians will have to decide, from among competing visions in elections scheduled to take place in the coming months. On the one hand, they can choose to continue the status-quo in which most Gambians are trapped in grinding poverty, fearful of their own government, and wondering what the future holds for them and their children. The other choice is for Gambians to choose CHANGE for the better.
“We at the UDP believe our country deserves a government that is worthy of the people it serves. Consequently, we offer a vision that proposes to have a government focused on safeguarding your rights, and providing the environment for each citizen to lawfully pursue his/her dream. We are determined to restore our country’s standing in the community of nations where we once stood in high esteem, but have for the last decade and half been cast among the world’s worst, primarily because of the way the current regime has treated its own people.
The fight for justice requires every Gambian to see himself or herself as a victim in waiting whose liberty is directly tied to the extent each is willing to create an environment in which his or her rights are respected. If we stand together and draw from the best of our traditions, we shall create a nation that is worthy of its people, where the government is never an instrument of repression and every citizen can pursue their dreams unencumbered by an overbearing state.
Finally, as we start this new year, uncertain as to what it holds for all of us, we sincerely pray that the peace and good as symbolised by both Tamharet and Christmas, which we wish for ourselves and our families, be realized, and that our dear country be protected from all the woes and ills that so often these days befall countries around us.
We ask all our citizens to be an integral part of the change they seek by getting involved in whatever capacity suits them. Change is always a difficult task and, along the way, it is easy to become despondent, fearful, tired, angry and sometimes be tempted to throw in the towel. But because the cause we have embarked upon is a just one that must be pursued, we must all strive harder to achieve these important goals. We, however, can do it only if we come together as one and face the opponent. This cause is bigger than any individual or group of individuals.
In this regard, the United Democratic Party extends its hand of friendship and cooperation in sincerity and love for our Motherland, to all progressive forces whose aim is to bring positive and democratic change in this country.
On behalf of the United Democratic Party, I wish you all a happy and fruitful New Year and good health. May Allah guide us all in our quest for a better Gambia!
May God bless you all and God bless The Gambia”.
Signed: UDP Secretary