The miserable part is that most of these people have lost their culture, heritage and their right to self-determination and even their families’ legacies and languages. These captured Africans were never allowed to return home. Now that their great-grandsons and daughters are completing the circle of returning home, they face an array of obstacles and discrimination.
Recently, African Descendants resident in The Gambia that have repatriated permanently to the country have raised concerns about their non-inclusion in the just rejected 2020 Draft Constitution Promulgation Bill. To them the draft report drafted by the Constitutional Review Commission including S188 that relates to an Exception Clause for African Descendants of the Enslaved, they feel omitted and discriminated against.
In a nutshell, S188 suggests a reduction in the current 15-year wait for Citizenship by way of Naturalization to 2-4 years.
Although, the AU recognises this category of people as Africans and The Gambia has included them in its Diaspora 8th Region and they are also recognized in the Sixth region. Notwithstanding, they have no recognition in The Gambia and the 15 year wait for citizenship by Naturalization for many is way beyond the scope of the generally accepted, international 5-year guideline.
Authorities need to do something about their case. And is high time The Gambia do away with its colonial laws that are still keeping us Africans separated and vulnerable and insecure.
What we need to understand is the fact that these people are our African brothers and sisters. And, some of them have invested sizeable amounts in The Gambia and their historical family lineage still remains in Africa.
What is even more annoying is that the constitution basically labelled them as aliens; no reference to who they are. This is sad indeed.
In places like Ghana, these people are welcomed back with open arms and given automatic citizenship.
It is against this backdrop that Council of Africans Descendants (COAD) in The Gambia established a movement to champion their cause. Through this council, they came up with a three step proposal that is easy to implement and they will cover the cost of implementation.
A stamp in the passports of African Descendants that states “Certificate of citizenship that gives partial citizenship”. This they believe ensures that they are subjected to the constitution and governed by their laws and they will have equal rights such as property rights excluding voting rights.
Another proposal, is a two-year programme undertaking including assimilation, integration and language course. This is to ensure that customs, mores, respect and understanding of culture is integral to the readjustment process.
Or application for a full citizenship in the same way as it has been with the only change being the time period of two years.
We believe The Gambia should follow the footsteps of Ghana with the Year of Return that restored citizenship to African Descendants in which they gained US$1.9 bn cash injection into the Ghanaian economy by these people.
Many of these people are investors and they contribute greatly to the country’s economy and even fabric of Gambian life. However, with or without a citizenship they remain resolute to contribute to the growth of The Gambia because they have its best interest at heart.
"Your descendants shall gather your fruits."