darboeSTATEMENT BY UDP LEADER LAWYER OUSAINOU DARBOE ON THE 21ST ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS OF JULY 22 1994 COUP

The United Democratic Party (UDP) has taken note of the reconciliatory gesture by the president to pardon different categories of prisoners and we express our solidarity with the beneficiaries and their families. Exercising constitutional prerogatives and giving these citizens a second chance was the right thing for the President to do.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of many more of our fellow citizens unjustly imprisoned including political prisoners, civil servants who after falling out of favor are unfairly prosecuted for purported offences related to the discharge of their duties in what could be only construed be as using the instruments of government for vindictive purposes.’

Message in full below:
21 years yesterday, the United Democratic Party as it has done consistently over the years utterly condemns the coup d’état of July 22nd 1994. It was a crime against the state and the Gambian people that constitute it. We reject categorically all of the fatuous reasons that were advanced to justify what was and is a grave crime and we refuse to per take in the indignity of celebrating the persistent cruel consequences of that fateful disruption of our democracy.

We ask all Gambians to take a moment and reflect on what has become of our country in the last 21 years. Let us take stock of the blood, the tears, the hopelessness and fear that has gripped our once happy population. What has happened to our Gambia when their own government has become their serial abuser, offering them nothing but platitudes, insults and festivals.

The United Democratic Party (UDP) has taken note of the reconciliatory gesture by the president to pardon different categories of prisoners and we express our solidarity with the beneficiaries and their families. Exercising constitutional prerogatives and giving these citizens a second chance was the right thing for the President to do.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of many more of our fellow citizens unjustly imprisoned including political prisoners, civil servants who after falling out of favor are unfairly prosecuted for purported offences related to the discharge of their duties in what could be only construed be as using the instruments of government for vindictive purposes. Additionally, the overcrowded and generally deplorable conditions of Gambian prisons have thoroughly undermined their capacities to serve as correction institutions. Gambians deserve a country in which they are not living in mortal fear of their own government and that all enjoy due process and equal protection under the law. We urge the government to recognize the depth of the wounds that have shaken the very fabric of our close knit society and for which it bears full responsibility and move affirmatively to correct its way.

In addition to a comprehensive prisoner release, the government should promptly abandon the recently passed election act which is designed to foreclose democracy and set the nation on a dangerous cause that will threaten our country and its future.As a replacement, we call on the government to adopt without delay the election reform proposals put forward by the combined opposition to make way for an orderly, fair and transparent election process that would reflect the true will of the Gambian people and restore confidence and hope in the nation and its institutions.

We are losing a whole generation to the desert and high seas as they give up on the proposition that they can live free and dignified lives in the land of their ancestors. The combination of a lack of opportunities to live even a modest subsistence life in the village and the excesses of a predatory government has made life anywhere else preferable even at the risk of death.This is a tragic and intolerable result of the last twenty years which has seen the government energetically dedicating time and enormous resources on foolishness and jamborees aimed at distracting and wasting the lives of the young. Today, along the length and breadth of this great country of ours, entire communities have been depleted of their youths, leaving behind mostly the elderly and women to scrounge a living from an agricultural economy that has also collapsed because of government neglect and mismanagement. This has exacerbated poverty, brought about food insecurity and undermined the overall economy with its attendant adverse effects on health and education.

The small percentage of the population that are lucky to have some kind of a job or can count on a reliable remittance from relatives abroad must contend with an economy that is ridden with inflation, high prices and scarcity. This has severely undercut their purchasing power leaving many scrambling daily to eat three square meals.Basic survival has become a grinding endeavour even for this category of lucky Gambians. Businesses are also subjected to the excesses of a regime with its high taxes, competition from the President, and other strong arm tactics resulting in many relocating to friendlier destinations where they can operate normally with strong support and encouragement from caring governments.

In the international community our once beloved nation that was respected and held as an example for others to follow now only draws ridicule and condemnation for the terrible manner the government of the last twenty years has been treating the Gambian people. Civilized nations rightfully demand that we the Gambian people be respected and not be abused in the cruel and incessant manner we have witnessed in the last twenty years. The number and category of victims are too numerous to list. From Imams, children, nursing mothers, elderly men and women, the sick and infirm, all continue to face the wrath of this regime.

As a party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) will continue to speak truth to power, press for government accountability and transparency, and respect for human rights. The UDP will also continue to provide a rallying platform for Gambian people’s yearning for a guanine, unfettered democratic process that exploits the potentials of the country’s citizens to achieve our development goals.

Similarly, the UDP will not relent in its demands for an inclusive political process that is credible and withstands the test of executive manipulations. Further, we shall continue to press for credible, free and fair electoral processes that guarantee freedom of choice but also one that truly reflects and represents the interest of all Gambians.

This is why the UDP believes that the July 22 2015 must be a day of stock taking for every Gambian with a conscience. How do you feel about the direction of your country? What does your life, your liberty and your dignity and that of your neighbors and fellow citizens mean to you? Your answers to these questions should lead you to resolve to end this national nightmare of the last 21 years. When you have a leader that does not represent your values and is persistently oppressing you, your responsibility as a citizen is to change that leader.

Ends

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