Jun 19, 2009, 7:17 AM
refugees in Italy are overwhelmed by the news that the former president, Yahya
Jammeh, finally left The Gambia after 22 years in power.
Generally, it has been a very tough post-electoral period mixed with different feelings among Gambians in Italy. For many it was surprising that the impasse that followed Jammeh’s rejection of the result of 1st December election was solved peacefully.
Assan Jallow, 24, said: “I lost hope when I heard Jammeh rejected the election because I thought people were going to protest which could end up to be a civil war. I could not imagine this day, the day that impasse would be solved peacefully. The Smiling Coast is back and we are happy.”
According to Amnesty International, more than 25,000 Gambians have used the Mediterranean to seek for asylum in Europe, through Italy, in less than a decade. Many more Gambians are dispersed all over Europe as victims of the 22 years of Jammeh’s tyranny, rights groups said.
Muhammed Ceesay, 41, said: “Gambians have suffered a lot; our economy is broken, and we do not have a strong infrastructure. The new government will have to start with building peace among Gambians and start it all over. This maybe more complex than we are taking it.”
Meanwhile, many Gambians in Italy are in a jubilant mood, for they can now go home with peace of mind, free from persecution.
Babu Kinteh, 31, said: “I am going back home after a long time. At first, this seems to be an illusion to me, but what more can we not attain as a united Gambia?
“However, my emotion right now is mixed, because Gambians have gone through 22 years of misrule; people have been divided and institutions decayed. But I now strongly believe Gambians can work together to rebuild their country.”
For the past 22 years, if there is one thing that many Gambians yearned for, it is freedom of expression.
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, had criticised and condemned the government of Yahya Jammeh for its alleged gross human rights violations such as arbitrary arrest, detention, and imprisonment without the due process of law.
Sanku Sillah, a technical student, said the government of Jammeh had unfairly treated many Gambians.
“We could not speak against anything; even our private lives were controlled. But we should now concentrate on nation-building by constructing transparent and democratic institutions, promote quality in education, eradicate corruption, and build a strong economy. This might take some time, but it is the formula.”
With the departure of former president Jammeh and the coming of President Adama Barrow, many Gambian refugees and asylum seekers can now return home without many obstacles.