Congratulations to all Gambian citizens for a colourful celebration of our country’s 52nd independence anniversary which also marked the inauguration of our first democratic transfer of political power – a transfer that is based on aspirations and will of the people. This day was a special important day in our country’s political dispensation because it has once reminded us that what binds us together is far more than what divides us; we are one people with a common destiny. It was a day we proudly celebrated the recognition of our past and present efforts as well as planned for the future. Like thousands of my fellow citizens, I also believe that it was a day when we reflect on what we did right or wrong collectively. In this particular celebration, what came to mind was our collective failure to move our country to a better direction during 22 years of the Jammeh military dictatorship.
I listened to President Adama Barrow’s independence speech with keen interest, and I appreciated its content. I was impressed and delighted when he said “the Gambia has changed forever” based on the simple fact that the people are conscious enough to change their political leadership any time they want to.
However, as I watched the various dignitaries who graced this auspicious occasion, I saw former regime officials given special frontline seats together with foreign dignitaries. The attendance of former regime officials was a good move toward national reconciliation but I think this must not be done at the expense of victims of 22 years of military dictatorship. Victims or their families were not accorded frontline seats on this auspicious celebration.
Since this is the first major event of the Barrow administration one must not expect its organisation to be perfect. I think President Barrow has missed an opportunity to recognise and honour the victims and their families. It is a mistake that families of the selfless heroes who sacrificed their lives to salvage our country from military dictatorship were not given a slot on the front seat. This was an oversight that must be taken note of. The families of Gambian heroes like Solo Sandeng, Corporal Tumani Jallow, Deyda Hydara, Chief Ebrima Manneh, Solo Krummah and other victims who were callously murdered while they advocated for democracy, justice and rule of law should have been publicly recognised in President Barrow’s speech and given special frontline seats in our country’s double celebrations. Instead we have seen the enablers of former repressive Jammeh regime given special frontline seats which totally in contravenes the justice and patriotic sacrifices our heroes fought and advocated for. It was against this mistaken background that I am calling on President Barrow to start honouring the victims of Jammeh dictatorship in his future public addresses to the nation. This will serve not only to create sense of empathy for the victims and their families but it will also enable citizenry to appreciate, honour and recognise the selfless sacrifices being done by our fellow citizens during the most difficult period of our country’s history. As a country, we must start to appreciate and honour great services and sacrifices of our patriotic citizens so that young people and future generations will recognise that selfless sacrifices are driven by one’s love for your country. This will send the positive message to all that such sacrifices are not only moral and patriotic but that they provide avenues for countless blessings: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Besides, we raise comfort and honour levels of the heroes families when we appreciate their sacrifices. We are simply telling them “we feel and share your pains.” This is why every civilised country such as ours should joyously celebrate “Remembrance Day” for our fallen heroes to respect, recognize, honour and value selfless sacrifices of their heroic services. As a country, we must start to recognise and honour our victims and their families for the common humanity that binds us together as one people with common desire to be loved and appreciated, especially when we gather together as a nation. We must do away with our attitudes of honoring only people of highest political positions or elites with social or economic privileges. Our new found democracy and political freedom should be geared towards honouring the sacrifices of ordinary citizens who contributed to the liberation of our country’s political freedom than recognition of elites and intellectuals who were silent during those difficult days. As we celebrated our country’s independence, rebirth of our democracy and freedom against dictatorship and oppressive rule, I encourage each and every citizen to honour and appreciate the victims of Jammeh’s autocratic and repressive rule.
As the Father of the Nation, President Barrow should embark on changing our national psyche by showing exemplary leadership style, aimed at recognising and honouring victims and their families in his future national engagements. This will promote the ideals of selfless national services, patriotism and basic human decency of standing up for what is moral and just for not only for the collective interest of our country. Selfless sacrifices in the services of one’s country is a moral responsibility which is supported and recognised by all great religions of the world.