Editorial: What is worth celebrating?

For 45 long years, Gambians have been celebrating the day their country was freed from the yokes of British colonial rule.

The question that comes to our mind is: what is worth celebrating in the first place, especially at a time majority of our people continue to be bitten by rising poverty, record unemployment, reports of gross violations of rights characterized by illegal arrests, detention without trial, disappearances and even summary executions without explanations. All these are reportedly committed by a government that we elected into office, and finance it with our taxes.
Surprisingly, since reporting attacks to the police would only aggravate their problem, Gambian victims and their families are left with only two choices: flee into exile or cry in silence, surely contradicting our struggle to attain independence and enjoy our fundamental rights and freedoms.
We vehemently disagree with President Yahya Jammeh that the day should be celebrated with “joy and reflection” and that there was need for Gambians to “recount with gratitude the achievements of the past decades.” Yes, his government that illegally dislodged the democratically elected regime of Sir Dawda Jawara in 1994 has recorded some progress, especially with regard to education, health and infrastructural developments across the country.
But the regime’s iron-fisted treatment of the very people that it swore to protect, bastardized the constitution, bad government and escalating poverty have all succeeded in demeaning the government’s progress, as evidenced by a barrage of international condemnations pouring on it. We find it hard to fathom that a country once seen as an oasis of everything good: human rights, democracy, rule of law and political freedom is now reeling with soiled international credentials.
Yes, we agree with Mr. Jammeh that the Gambia needs to overcome the “daunting challenges and the unending task of nation-building.” But how can we overcome these challenges or achieve our goals when fear rules the country, majority of Gambians lose trust and confidence in every arm of the government, and go to bed with empty stomach? There can only be meaningful development, peace and stability when people are freed from fear, allowed to exercise their rights and freedoms. In that, they will fully participate in nation-building.
True, centuries of British colonial rule failed to bring development for our country, but it had been documented that British allowed Gambians to exercise their rights to the fullest, and even allowed impartiality of courts and press freedom, rare things in today‘s Gambia. It’s therefore imperative that Mr. Jammeh stops heaping blames on the British for not doing this or that. Rather, his government should also strive hard to copy the good things left behind by the British

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