EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Leader and secretary general of the United Democratic Party (UDP) said The Gambia of today still suffers from the effects of two decades of dictatorship, gross human rights violations and Government incompetence, saying the country must address the unfinished business of its democratic transition.
In his New Year message on Tuesday, Ousainou Darboe said the country must close the festering wound of abject poverty that exists amongst its people, forge ahead with law reform and social development and continue to transform workplaces and restructure the economy so that it benefits all.
“In this sense, reconciliation is a very practical undertaking. It is about the work that needs to be done to unlock investment in our economy, to reduce the cost of doing business and to promote growth. It is about the urgent measures we need to take to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to homes and businesses. It is about ensuring that our water resources are preserved and equally available to all,” he said.
Mr Darboe who stood in the 1996, 2001, and 2006 presidential elections said the urgent question for all Gambians is how far have ‘we’ come as a people in healing the divisions of the past and building a united nation, three years after the dictatorship that had blighted ‘our’ homeland?
“As Gambians we have much to be proud of in our efforts to build a democratic and inclusive nation. We see it every day, in our music and sports arenas, in our National Assembly, and on our television screens where programmes reflect the talent and diversity of our nation and its languages and cultures. We see it in the work of the CRC and most poignantly we see it in the work of the TRRC.”
He said his 2020 message to Gambians is focused on reconciliation because reconciliation is impossible as long as corruption continues, saying some individuals continue to sow division, the vast majority of the people continue to live in poverty and high youth unemployment which has led to a pervasive sense of hopelessness that is responsible for the tragedy off the coast of Mauritania early this month. “This confirms that true reconciliation is not only about conceding civil liberties of the people. It is also about political and economic transformation.”
Mr Darboe said since the country accomplished its democracy three years ago, its people have demonstrated time and again their immense capacity to look beyond superficial differences in the quest to achieve a better Gambia, and with it, embrace a democratic way of life.
“Reconciliation means that we should continue to use the capability of the state to improve the lives of the people, to have a tax regime that is progressive and public finances that are responsibly managed. Reconciliation also requires that we have access to quality health care through, among other things, the introduction of a National Health Insurance.”
He reminded Gambians that they need to improve the quality of education nationwide and rural schools in particular and ensure that there is a renewed focus in early childhood development programmes. He said people must continue to seek out and forge durable social compacts to attain their vision of the ‘Other Gambia’ that has been fundamentally transformed.
“We must all play our part if we are to bequeath to our children a society that has truly reconciled. It is time to put aside egos, individual and collective, for the sake of the youth. Let us make a concerted effort to move forward together, focusing on what unites us as Gambians instead of what divides us as one nation.”
The UDP leader also enjoined Gambians to continue to pray for the soul of the country’s first President Sir Dawda K. Jawara and all the souls of the departed, for Allah in His infinite mercy to grant their souls eternal peace.