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22nd July: 19 years on

Jul 23, 2013, 10:00 AM

Monday 22nd July 2013 marked exactly nineteen years since President Yahya Jammeh became leader of The Gambia. When he deposed his predecessor, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, in a bloodless coup on 22 July 1994, few people gave him a chance.

Nineteen years on, he has no doubt weathered the storm and learnt a lot on the job.

However, what we are interested in is what the Jammeh administration has been able to do for the people of this country, and what he has not done, over the past 19 years. This is because he has sworn to serve the people.

Ever since he took the reins in July 1994, there has been tremendous improvement in the social sector. There are more hospitals and health centres now than ever before; just as there has been an explosion of schools all around the country.

For the first time in the history of this country, Gambians are now able to acquire university education on home soil.

The country has over the years seen its own medical doctors, trained at the medical school of the University of the Gambia, pass out. And the UTG has undoubtedly expanded so rapidly as to have a Law Faculty.

The road network has also improved remarkably. As for telecommunications, there are now four GSM companies operating successfully in The Gambia.

But transportation is still in a difficult state, especially with the absence of the GPTC buses on the road. They need to come back on the road to ease the mounting transport difficulties faced by commuters day after day.

In the same vein, there is a need for newer ferries to ease the difficulties faced by thousands of people daily in trying to cross between Banjul and Barra.

The government together with the Gambia International Airlines (GIA) and the Gambia Civil Aviation Authorities (GCAA) should work out ways of reducing air fares so that prospective travellers do not have to go to Dakar, Senegal, where air fares are apparently cheaper.

At the same time, farmers should be made to feel that their produce will be bought at the end of the day, and not otherwise.

This will encourage them to engage more seriously in agricultural production.

At the international level, we need to work hard on our relations with other ECOWAS countries particularly our neighbour, Senegal, by opening a dialogue with them to thrash out any misunderstandings.

On the human rights front, the issues are numerous, including the fact of people being remanded without trial for an unduly long time, which needs to be addressed. The same applies to the matter of people acquitted and discharged by courts only to be re-arrested and detained.

In the coming years, Gambians would like to see the rule of law given pride of place in the spirit of good governance. In this case, due process must be followed at all times so that human rights are always seen to be respected.

Gambians will be happy to see that no one is detained for more than 72 hours without trial.

Civil servants would also like to see a Gambia where they can belong to the opposition without any fear of losing their jobs.

After 19 years of APRC rule, there is need for greater tolerance and accommodation of those always pejoratively termed as “unpatriotic” simply because they are opposition supporters.

We also reiterate suggestions that the amendments to the laws which adversely affect the operations of the media and work of journalists in The Gambia, such as the recent amendments to the Information and Communications Act, should be repealed without delay.

Government should further widen its doors to all the independent press.

Over and above all else, we request that the stalled investigation into the needless and brutal murder of Deyda Hydara on 16 December 2004 be resumed and the whereabouts of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh be established without delay.

“No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married for quarter of a century”