Convention Speech: the desire for change

Posted on Posted in Speeches

Good morning! Thank you! Thank you, Gambia! Thank you!

Gambians are hard working and peace loving people. In the last two decades, I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, I have met hardworking men and women in the city, towns, and villages, and have heard your stories and aspirations. I have also heard your frustrations. I am inspired and motivated by you the Gambians, by your desire for change in the face of immense economic hardship, restrictions on our freedom and personal liberty.

Alerted by a deep sense of concern for the Gambia, committed to our country’s advancement unfettered by repression, abuse, impunity, and persecution, I have observed the current dispensation over the years.

What I have seen is a deteriorating Gambia with deteriorating institutions, where those in authority abuse state power to instill fear and hopelessness within the people. Gambians today are not free to say what they think. Fear and terror, through the abuse of state power, have so gripped the people that, most will look behind their shoulders before they speak.

The immediate and compelling task before us all is to awaken our consciousness of the sovereign power that resides in us – the people – to use our votes as the instrument of change to free ourselves from the rule of fear and terror, unleashed by a regime that created a series of laws or made amendments to existing laws that erode the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

I also observed the trends and patterns of the systematic mismanagement of our limited resources. Two decades of APRC misrule witnessed a series of false starts. While Gambians were yearning for results, APRC’s visions became mere illusions and so-called operations were compromised.

During the recent past, the Gambia’s economy has been challenged by shocks, largely domestic and to a lesser extent external, resulting in low growth and resurgence inflation. The financial position weakened considerably compounded by weak policy implementation, particularly as regards excessive spending relative to mobilization and dwindling external budgetary support.

Those in power are not listening to the demands for political or economic reform. Conditions for political participation have been so crafted that political pluralism has been curtailed, generating a feeling of powerlessness among many. Too much power is concentrated in too few hands. We need a new approach to government that involves the people in decisions that affect them. Those who make decisions on behalf of others are too often not accountable. I will restore the sovereignty of the people, end impunity and decentralize authority and power.

It is my fervent belief and conviction that we can bring about change for a better Gambia by directing our efforts and political capital towards one end – the singular pragmatic goal of ushering in a new and third republic that brings progress by building strong democratic instruments and institutions, repealing the obnoxious laws that restrict our freedom and liberty, building a strong economy, and leveling the political playing field, so that the sovereign will of Gambians will always prevail in their choice of leadership.

I am committed, if elected to serve for one five-year term only, working with all those who have the capacity and commitment to salvage the Gambia as it totters on the brink of total collapse. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance. We cannot walk it alone neither can we turn back. Together, we can bring the change that is needed. Principles and values need not be compromised, but strategies and tactics must be flexible enough to make progress possible, especially under the difficult political conditions we face.

Everything I learnt in my years of work with the women, men and the youth of this country, and in academia, has convinced me that Gambians need a president that will serve them, not one that looks down on them, a president who will uphold the constitution, the rule of law and restore good governance; a government that will bring economic prosperity to Gambians. People want more say in the decisions that affect their lives. The old command and control politics, doing things to and for people, but never with them, has not and will not work.

True democracy does not mean voting every five years. True democracy requires the active participation of all citizens in planning the development programs and activities for their localities, working with their wards, Village Development Committees, and other development committees. Allowing people affected to take leadership in advancing the best interest based on the common good.

Together we can stop further degeneration of our beloved country and contribute to give it a new lease of life where hope, love and appreciation of each other, respect for fundamental freedom, dignity of the person, rule of law and peace will thrive, in an entity that is nothing other than Gambian, ensuring that nobody is victimized on the basis of tribe, religion or political affiliation For this is the true nature of the Gambian people.

Gambians face a dire situation with the APRC regime and every Gambian has a story to tell. But I urge you to muster courage and strength so that we can make the Gambia better.  I seek your support in our quest to bring the Gambia out of isolation, to build bridges and linkages with peoples of other nations in partnerships that safeguard, protect and promote the interest of the Gambia as a sovereign state.  Gambia’s interest is best served by engaging with other nation states and being part of the wider international community.

I want us to usher in a Gambia that will bring on board the hearts and minds of all Gambians in the Diaspora, including those who left the country because of the tribulations, persecutions, fear and abuses they face as private citizens, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, and activists, but more than anything else, a new Gambia of economic prosperity, freedom, rule of law, peace and stability.

The youth of this country are frustrated and their hopes dashed. Those born at the cusp of the second republic have now come of age. Twenty years of APRC rule has failed to give them opportunities to fulfill their aspirations and achieve their goals. What their country has failed to give them i. e. jobs and decent living, they try to seek elsewhere, embarking on perilous journeys across the harsh desert and the wild Mediterranean. The Gambia needs you most now of all times, as nation builders and agents of change to build a better Gambia for us all. Your votes are your weapons to effect the change you desire. Under our sovereign third republican constitution, we can be the architects of our own destiny.

By investing more in the productive base of the economy, in the private as well as in the public sector, by avoiding wasteful spending, we will create more jobs that would motivate the young generation of school leavers and job seekers, remain in the country. We would motivate and encourage Gambian scholars and academics abroad to return and contribute their quota.

We would encourage and lure the private sector to open opportunities to the young people to earn a decent living and fulfill their dreams. We must preserve the Gambia for our children and the future generation and must open the doors for development.

We cannot afford to leave matters to chance and to men alone, heaven helps those who help themselves. Hardworking women of this country have waited far  too long for mainstream politicians entrusted to address the things that matter to you; family, home, work and the economy, garden inputs, access to credit and market outlets for your garden produce. Over the years, you have lobbied the government to pass bills that could bring meaningful change to the lives of the women and men of this country. You have marched to protest against rape and domestic violence and other rights violations and you have campaigned for more inclusiveness for women in decision making. Women can no longer remain as onlookers and cheerleaders.

We can, together with the youth and men of this country, work to bring about unprecedented development in record time. Your personal concerns could become political if you use your voices and votes to be heard. You have a choice, you have a voice. The personal can be political and women and the economy are directly related. Where one is flourishing so is the other.

Your children will face new challenges. But each of you can help prepare for that future by standing for justice, equality and women’s rights at home and at the workplaces.

Human rights framework and perspective will continue to be central in our approach to issues as we strive to restore the dignity and integrity of all Gambians and all those who chose to live in the Gambia. We commit ourselves to democracy and good governance as we address the emerging issues of the state in order for the Gambia to gain its rightful position in the world.

We cannot afford to be isolated in the current inter-connected world of development initiatives. All sovereign citizens of the Gambia, living abroad, would be free, as a matter of right to return or visit the country their motherland which belongs to us all.

In this election of 2016, the country has a choice. The APRC regime has brought the country to the brink of economic collapse and dysfunctional social sectors.  The secular and republican status of the constitution is under threat. Youth unemployment and inflation are soaring and the level of human rights abuse is alarming. That path led to the Gambia’s descent from the unenviable status of ‘least developed country’ to our current pitiful status of ‘heavily indebted poor country’, a status that will change with me as the president of the Gambia.

When the Government of the First Republic was unconstitutionally toppled in a military coup in 1994, Yaya Jammeh, then a young army officer said he wanted to end self-perpetuation in power and condemned what he called the flamboyant lifestyle of the former regime. But in a twist of irony, he then changed the constitution and removed term limits without consulting the people, perpetuating himself in power for twenty odd years. His lifestyle is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross with planes, and a multi-million dollar home. He has broken faith with the people. It is time for him to go.

Together we can change that direction towards the path of economic growth, creating wealth, creating jobs for the youth, rewarding the hard work of Gambians across the country, upholding the fundamental rights and freedom of Gambians, the rule of law, and the promotion of women’s rights, and the national interest and security of the Gambia.

If elected, I intend to serve only one term, during which period, I would work with all the existing parties and Gambians ready and willing to steer the Gambia towards a direction that will enable it to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people.

I reject the call to turn Gambia into an Islamic State intended to bring division and set us against each other. I will uphold and reinforce the secular republican status of the constitution, where every Gambian will be free to practice his or her religion in accordance with their faith; in a Gambia where democracy, good governance, and human rights will prevail. I will bring the smile back to the face of the people of the smiling coast.