Opposition leaders have decried The Gambia government’s decision to sideline them in the celebrations of the 50th independence anniversary which took place at Independence Stadium in Bakau, located about 7 km from the capital Banjul.
“That is our National Day, and it is a none-partisan matter. This is a celebration by Gambians,” Lawyer Ousainou Darboe of the pposition United Democratic Party (UDP) told this reporter.
February 18, 2015 marks the start of former British colony’s Golden Jubilee which gained independence in 1965. Several activities are expected to be carried out within this Jubilee Year. The event came in the wake of a failed putsch attempt staged by some foreign Gambian dissidents based in US, United Kingdom and Germany. The power grab fiasco resulted in a massive crackdown on dozens of relativea of the alleged coup suspects.
Many Gambians were expecting that the Jubilee Celebrations would be used as an opportunity to foster the path to genuine reconciliation. But their hopes were dashed by the ensuing political repression and the sidelining of opposition parties in the commemoration.
“I can only speak for myself; I am not invited,” said Darboe who i. the leader of the country’s biggest opposition party.
Omar Amadou Jallow of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Jammeh said
the stance taken by the Jammeh regime did not surprise him. “This has been the case over these past years.”
The PPP leader recalled that during PPP 30-year rule, the government used to invite all political organizations when commemorating the anniversary of Gambia’s nationhood.
“Independence should be seen as national celebration, and not as a partisan celebration.” Omar Amadou Jallow said the Gambia has particularly tried to instrumentalize the Jubilee Celebrations in order to break diplomatic isolation it is confronted with.
“Since the advent of the Jammeh regime, they have disrespected this present day President Jammeh stated in many forums that the February 18 celebrations are not important as Gambians were not independent.”
US-based political activist Saul Mbenga could not understand why Gambians who made the independence possible have not been invited by Jammeh to take part. “And yet, he (President Jammeh) is spending huge amount of borrowed money to invite foreigners to the great event he had not taken part in. The PPP is the party that led Gambia to independence.”
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, John Mahama of Ghana, Jose Mario Vaz of Guinea-Bissau, and Senegalese Prime Minister Mouhamed Boune Abdoulaye Dione took part in the launching by President Yahya Jammeh of the Jubilee Celebrations at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
Written by Abdoulie JOHN