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Gambians have spoken

Nov 28, 2011, 11:16 AM

Gambians have spoken! And they have spoken loudly and clearly that they believe in President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership to steer the affairs of this country along the path of peace, progress and prosperity.

On Thursday, November 24, President Yahya Jammeh swept the polls yet again, this time around with 72% of the total votes cast. He hadwon in 1996, 2001 and 2006 with impressive margins, but his latest electoral victory has eclipsed the previous ones.

Translated into plain terms, the victory shows that Gambians are happy with the way he has been running the affairs of state, since 1994. In a democracy, power resides with the people.

And on Election Day, the Gambian people willingly and openly entrusted Yahya Jammeh with the custody of that sovereignty for the next five years. With this unalloyed trust come a lot of challenges.

So many promises were made during the campaign running up to the presidential election. By voting overwhelmingly yet again for President Jammeh, Gambians want to see a continuity of the plethora of development projects the APRC government has initiated over the past decade.

They want to see the roads rehabilitated not only in the Kanifing Municipality and other administrative areas, but across the whole country.  They want to see a more regular supply of both water and electricity. Gambians would like to see good ferries plying the Banjul, Barra and Farafenni crossing points. They also want to see a government that is more accommodating of all shades of opinion.

Put differently, they yearn for a government of national unity in which every Gambian who is able and willing is given a chance to contribute meaningfully to national development. This spells greater relevance in that President Jammeh won emphatically, even in traditional opposition strongholds.

In light of this new political dawn, there is need for greater tolerance and accommodation of those always pejoratively termed as unpatriotic simply because they are opposition supporters. President Jammeh, now more than ever before, has a chance to prove himself as a true national leader free of animosity towards any group.

The media also played a crucial role in the peaceful and exemplary presidential polls. Without the journalists, there was no way the presidential hopefuls could have conveyed their messages to the electorate. So, the media should be given their due. In the new dispensation, we would like to appeal to the government to review all draconian media laws and any law that hinders the work of journalists in this country.

We noted, with keen interest, comments by President Jammeh regarding journalists in this country when he was speaking to reporters, shortly after casting his vote.

One thing we would like to reiterate, once again, is the fact that we as journalists have always seen ourselves as partners in development and nothing else because, after all, this country belongs to all of us.

In the same vein, we reiterate our appeal for government to soften up towards the independent media by allowing such radio stations as Citizen FM and Sud FM to again come on the airwaves, as well as unbanning The Independent newspaper.

In our view, Jammeh should open a new page in his relations with the press and the international community to work harmoniously for the interest of the nation.

President Jammeh should accept criticism and promote divergent views and freedom of expression in the country. According to some observers who monitored the election, Jammeh won the election fairly and decisively.  Now, Jammeh should be seen to be working more on peace and stability in Senegambia region, especially in resolving the Casamance rebellion, which President Wade asked him to help resolve.

The President’s much expected magnanimity should also extend to giving amnesty to the many exiled Gambians who cannot return home because of fear of being prosecuted.

Jammeh should also extend an amnesty to those who might have offended him and up to now remain in detention, for the sake of national unity. He should also be seen to be working on the reduction of taxes and bank loan charges, which is the highest in the region.

It was also good that President Jammeh, while speaking to thousands of supporters who gathered for the victory celebration in Banjul on Saturday, called on the opposition to work with him for the betterment of the country.

In the next five 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.

Talking about the opposition, the November 24 polls has also shown that the majority of the electorate has no confidence in the opposition parties.

This could be attributed to their failure to agree on a single candidate in the run-up to the polls. Rather than bemoan their fate, the opposition should go back to the drawing board and refine their strategies.  The Gambia still needs a viable opposition to prevent the country from becoming a one-party state as the electoral results portend.

To start with, they must work hard to win as many seats as they can in the forthcoming National Assembly elections, so that the practice of checks and balances can be put in place.

“We thank Allah for having a peaceful poll, and pray that the peace and stability continues”

The Point