By Abdoulie John
In wake of celebrations marking The Gambia’s 54 years of nationhood, civil society groups held on Monday a counter-event at the Youth Monument at Westfield to take stock of the path taken by the country since gaining independence from Great Britain.
Renowned Gambian academic, Dr. Ismaela Ceesay, deplored The Gambia’s continuous dependence on imports to feed its population after more than five decades of independence.
“We have to reflect deeply about our situation after 54 years of independence,” he voiced out while noting that we are still not able to cure ourselves when we are sick.
Amid challenges, The Gambia celebrated on February 18 its attainment of sovereignty in a grand style. The event was held at MacCarthy Square as President Adama Barrow, government officials and other dignitaries attended the ceremony.
The Political Science lecturer at the University of The Gambia lamented that the same situation could be applied on education and infrastructure sectors.
“Today we don’t work for our homeland, we work for ourselves,” he stated. “When politicians get into politics, they work for themselves, their family and cronies.”
Dealing with the issue of civil society in the country’s new political dispensation, Madi Jobarteh, a leading voice of the civil society movement, made it clear that activism is not about Facebook posts nor a picnic.
“Activism is not a one-day event. It is about knowledge, research, information, going to court etc,” he stated.
Civil society groups were instrumental in putting the plight of Gambians on the world map, prompting many Western countries to take a serious stance against the Jammeh regime.
Jobarteh went further to say that fighting against injustice, protecting human rights and good governance are part of activism.
“That is the main reason why civil society emerges everywhere in the world. In the Gambia, this should be the way forward,” he concluded.
As the activities of a good number of companies continue to pose a threat to our environment, the Head of the newly formed National Human Rights Commission, lawyer Emannuel Daniel Joof, reminded the gathering that rights related to a safe and healthy environment are integral to the enjoyment of human rights.
“It boils down to awareness. It is expected that we when we pay our rates, we get our garbage collected,” he emphasized. “We don’t even claim those rights because of lack of awareness.”
Lawyer Joof expressed his resolve to make sure that awareness raising is going to be very fundamental for the country’s human body, adding that they will target not only the general citizenry but also officials.
Some of the officials, he argued, don’t even know it is an obligation for them to provide these services.
For his part, Gambia Press Union, Sheriff Bojang Jr. acknowledged the fact that the media has a powerful impact on Gambian lives. But he was quick to decry lack of ethical standards as one of the major challenges the fraternity is confronted with.
“If a journalist wants to go and romanticise the Head of State, that is the choice of the media outlet he is working for,” he said.
He then explained that is why the press union spearheaded the initiative to set up the National Media Council.
Bojang assured that the Council will be tasked with the responsibility to look into these issues, and make sure that journalists are doing their trade within the confines of the ethics of professionalism.