The Gambia, Africa's smallest country,
celebrates 44 years of independence from British colonial rule Wednesday. After surviving an earlier
attempted coup in 1981, founding father Sir Dawda Jawara was overthrown in 1994
by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh. In an editorial, the government-run Daily Observer
newspaper says independence brought an end to colonial domination.
opposition leader Ousainu Darbo told VOA that while
Gambians should celebrate their freedom from colonial rule, their country under
Yahya Jammeh remains a virtual police state.
have reason to celebrate independence on Wednesday, 18 February because if for
nothing, it remains the day that we severed our connection with the British and
took charge of the running of the affairs of The Gambia by ourselves. It is
also a day on which every Gambian should rededicate himself to ensuring that
this is taking to higher heights," he said.
Darbo said when it comes to political dispensation, there is very little Gambians
should celebrate on this their 44th independence anniversary.
democracy that is now being practiced is not what the founding fathers of this
nation had anticipated and it's not what the founding fathers had envisioned
for the country. The country is really under dictatorship; it's a virtual
police state. No one feels secured about his freedom; no one knows when laws
will be changed to suit particular situation; the courts gave out orders and
the orders are disregarded. I hope that Gambians today (Wednesday) will rethink
the situation in the country and make a decision in order to change that
situation," Darbo said.
rejected any notion that there is some semblance of political freedom in The
Gambia, including freedom of speech.
fact that I as a political party leader am able to express my views
particularly on the VOA doesn't mean that there is freedom of expression. What
I'm doing on your media I cannot do it on Radio Gambia or on Gambian
Television. So there is no freedom of the press in this country. Currently you
have the editor of The Point newspaper being tried for publishing stories about
a Gambian diplomat who was arrested and detained in the Central Prison," he
also said Gambians are having a tough time economically, particularly the
situation in the country is very deplorable. The farming season, we had a good
rain last year, but then the main crop, that is groundnut we have not got
market for it. The farmers who constitute 75 percent of the Gambian workforce
have remained unpaid for their labor. Of course, we've been very dependent on
remittances from abroad. And as you know the (economic) situation in the United
States and in Europe is such that those Gambians who are living and remit funds
to The Gambia are no longer in a position to do as they were doing," Darbo
criticized the Jammeh government for what he called remaining insensitive to
the plight of the Gambian people.
government, personified by President Jammeh, who is now called Professor
Jammeh, is engaged in wasteful spending in areas that do not deserve such
attention. It is difficult for the majority of Gambians to put food on the
table for their families. This is the situation in which we are," he said.
rejected the criticism that the Gambian political opposition has given Gambians
no alternative all because of its polarizing tendency.
do not think that is a valid criticism. The fact that we have many opposition
political parties in the country doesn't mean that the opposition is divided.
After all the more you have opposition political parties the wider the range
for The Gambians to make choice be that for president or for the national
assembly," Darbo said.