The National Chairman of the United Democratic Party, Alhaji Dembo Byforce Bojang, the Acting Party leader and Secretary General Aji Yam Secka, honorable members of the Central Committee representing the party structures from all the Regions, party militants, Members of the diplomatic Corps, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen.
There comes a time in the life of an oppressed nation when its people just get up and say enough is enough. We have seen it over and over again throughout the whole world. Gambia is not going to be an exception. WE have reached that stage. We have allowed our country to exist in fear and we do nothing about it. It was Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States who once said that “When the government fears the people, you have liberty. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny.” It is tyranny that prevails in Gambia.
I stand before you, before the whole nation, in humility having been honoured by my party, by the members of my party, by the entire Gambian people in selecting me to carry the flag of the United Democratic Party to victory in the forthcoming presidential elections. This is a great responsibility and I am accepting it with my unquestionable belief in Allah the Almighty and the confidence and trust I have in the Gambian people. I know the Gambian people are yearning for change. They have done so since 1996 and I believe that time has come for that change. My nomination is the first step and I know that with the suffering that all Gambians irrespective of age, sex, religious or tribal background, have without exception experienced, we will bring about change in December.
The United Democratic Party, being the largest single party in the Gambia has done what is expected of it. We have participated in all elections since the lifting of the ban on political activities imposed by the military junta in September, 1996 and apart from the ruling party, we have had the highest number of votes and the largest number of seats in the National Assembly. It was certain to everybody therefore, that the UDP was going to participate in the forthcoming cycle of elections starting with the nomination of its own candidate for president.Yes, we have indeed gone through unimaginable trials, our party alone, among all political entities in this country, our party lone has been singled out for the worst treatment one can imagine to mete out on one’s political opponent. Our party is the only party that has recorded since 1996 hundreds of unlawful arrests and detentions, a dozen of deaths and a handful of unexplained disappearances in the course of this political struggle against the APRC rule.
The past twelve months have marked the beginning of drastic change in this country. It started in Fass Ngagga Choye when our Party leader and the UDP convoy going on a countrywide tour were stopped from continuing their tour. The standoff that followed led to the capitulation of government and granting of a permit to continue. The demonstration by our youths led by Solo Sandeng our Organising Secretary in April this year which led to their illegal arrest and detention and subsequent death in custody of Solo, was the turning point in the history of politics in our country. Our party leader and /Secretary General Lawyer Ousainou Darboe led his Executive to demand the release of Solo or his corpse, and his group and they in turn were arrested and tortured. The kangaroo court that tried them sentenced them to three years. The majority of the arrested executive members are over sixty-five years old. Three of them are over seventy. This cowardly action has led the Gambian people to appreciate that UDP is and has infect always been the party of the people and we are convinced that with the forthcoming elections the Gambian people will show this government that enough is enough.
I have been a member of the UDP since 1996. As an ordinary member I worked for the party in my native constituency of Jimara, in Upper River Region where I was born in the town of Basse. I started my education from Koba Kunda primary school then in 1981 I went to Crab Island Secondary Technical School. After doing well in the secondary school leaving certificate examinations I proceeded to Muslim High School from 1985 to 1988. However, I spent most of my adult life in Banjul in the guardianship of the famous Alhagie Momodou Musa Njie, who introduced me to entrepreneurship and that’s what I have been doing successfully until today. I also lived and travelled extensively in both England and Germany. In 2010 the National Executive of the party appointed me as Coordinator of the UDP URR Committee. This gave me the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the Region and that way extended the membership and support of our party. In 2006, I was again appointed by the Executive as Deputy Treasurer to Amadou Sanneh. I was quite comfortable in accepting this post because I did have prior accounting skills. This job, with the encouragement of Amadou, also broadened my interaction with the grassroots organisations of the party and today I can say that there is no Regional Committee that I am not known in.
The unfortunate and unjustified detention and imprisonment of Amadou Sanneh further added a heavy burden on my shoulders. Not only was Amadou, with his extraordinary experience and knowledge highly suited for the job, he conducted his work with extraordinary skill and humaneness. I had had the fortune of working with and accepted to take on the job and in accepting it I knew what experienced working with him would stand me in a good position. This position not only further brought me into wider contact with our members throughout the country, but as a senior member of Executive gave me the possibility of taking part in major business of the party and contributing personally in the decision making regarding matters of national importance.
My role as Acting Treasurer, a position I have now held for thepast three years, has enabled me to cultivate a rich relationship with my colleagues on the Executive as well as party officials in the various regional committees and indeed at grassroots level. I can say with absolute certainty therefore, that I enjoy the confidence and support of both the Executive as well as the party rank and file. As has been the case in my normal interaction with them I know that I will get their full encouragement and support knowing full well that that is the way to achieving our noble object of taking back our country. I have also within the framework of our interactions with the Gambian Diaspora, worked closely with UDP Chapters overseas.
As we take this bold step to enter the fifth cycle of elections since the military coup, we do so for our leaders, who have been unjustly arrested, imprisoned for months without bail maltreated and then sentenced to four years in prison. We will be letting them down and betraying them if we sit by and allow Yaya Jammeh to win these elections. As the leading party we owe it to them and the entire Gambian people to fight as if they were with us and win. Winning the elections will enable us to remove them from unlawful imprisonment and enable them to take their rightful places among their fellow Gambians and continue relentlessly their mission of redeeming and reconstructing our country from the terrible situation it has found itself for the past twenty two years.
As I accept the nomination as the party’s presidential candidate, let me urge you all – members of my party, and fellow Gambians in general, to rededicate ourselves to this noble task of salvaging our country. I wish to appeal to all Gambians particularly leaders and members of other sister parties to get together and unite around the common cause that we are unanimous that we havein common – remove this government in the polls and create a government truly of the people and by the people. In the coming days, my fellow Gambians I will be stretching my hands to other parties to come together to form a single front to once and for all take this soulless dictator out. It is a monumental task but we owe it to our country, to our leaders to do it and do it the right way.
In the next few days, our Executive and I would be contacting our colleagues in the other parties and other interested groups with a view to engaging in a dialogue that could lead to creating a conducive and feasible arrangement that would lead to the defeat of this government. I wish to call upon all Gambians to take these forthcoming elections seriously. We cannot continueanother five years under Yaya Jammeh.
I thank the Executive and the Central Committee for giving me honour and privilege to serve the party in this capacity and I solemnly promise I will do all in my power to lead the party to success in the polls and beyond. May Allah guide and protect us and bless our beloved country.
Long Live the United Democratic Party
Long live Ousainou Darboe and his colleague political prisoners
Long live the Gambia
I thank you all for your attention.