The Secretary General and party leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe, has called on Gambians to engage in a national dialogue to address governance issues of every nature in the country.
In his New Year message to Gambians, Darboe also called on the Executive and all other leaders to give consideration to the convening of a national conference to discuss not only political, but also socio-economic problems confronting our beloved country, The Gambia.
Below is the full text of Ousainou Darboe's message, which touched on a wide range of issues:
Fellow Gambians, and friends living in The Gambia,
As we usher in the year 2013, it gives me great pleasure to extend to you on my own behalf and on behalf of the entire membership of the United Democratic Party our sincere and best wishes.
As we look back on the year just ending we do so with mixed feelings - the feeling that God Almighty has spared us to see it through and for this we thank Him. On the other hand, we have the feeling that in 2012 we did not register any tangible achievements on the economic or thesocial front. We can only hope and pray that this coming year will bring with it changes that will improve the lot of every Gambian.
In the last two months of 2012 we celebrated two important occasions in the religious calendar of our Nation - that is Yow mal Azura and Christmas. These are feasts that always conjure peace and joy, good neighbourliness, harmony and good will: and in The Gambia Muslims and Christians alike join in to honour these events.
The year 2012 witnessed events in The Gambia that have marveled not only the ordinary citizens but the world at large.It was a year that saw the execution of nine death row inmates; saw the incident of night arrests of prominent individuals, the misuse ofthe Economic Crimes, (specified offences) Act and the efforts to fetter and stifle the citizens' right to petition the executive for redress by indicting aggrieved persons before the courts on charges of giving false information.
We are baffled as to why these have happened to The Gambia in 2012.It is difficult to rationalise these happenings in a country that vaunts of its constitution as being one of the best in the sub-region; a country that is host to the African Commission on Human Rights, the African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies and the African Institute for Human Rights Studies.
The presence of these institutions in The Gambia should provide the elan for us to be tolerant to dissenting views, to be circumspect in our decisions to deprive people of their liberty and for the country to serve as a role model for the rest of Africa in the matter of observing due process and eschew Executive lawlessness.
2012 has seen an increase in the number of children in the streets who are either hawking or begging, these children who can rightly be described as "deprived kids" have been forced into that situation because of their parents' poverty.Poverty and hunger are on the increase; several household heads are unable to provide for their families. Youth un-employment was on the increase resulting in our youths who could not be absorbed into either the Gambia National Army, Gambia Police Force, The Gambia Prison Services or the Immigration Department opting for the perilous route to Europe.
The year 2012 has witnessed the greatest setback for democracy and free and equal participation of political parties in the electoral process.The United Democratic Party as a member of the Group of Six made minimum demand of the Independent Electoral Commission to put in place guarantees that will ensure a free and fair National Assembly election.
The Commission deliberately refused to do the right thing resulting in six of the opposition parties being forced not to participate in the last National Assembly Elections.
To you Gambians, I wish to express my deepest gratitude for supporting the position adopted by the Group of Six and to the membership of the UDP for their constant support during 2012.The hackneyed slogan of "Power to the People" can only be meaningful if the electoral process is credible.
2012 was not a year of only doom and gloom.There was a brighter side to it.It was a year in which Gambians in their individual capacities have registered great achievements - achievements that every Gambians can and should be proud of.2012 witnessed the election and enthronement of the First Gambian Primate and Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa, 2012 saw the election of a Gambian to the position of Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; 2012 has seen the appointment of a Gambian to the Board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 2012 has seen the appointment of a Gambian as the head of a first class financial institution in Oman one of the growing financial centres in the Middle East and 2012 saw a Gambian as the recipient of the World Bank 2012 Jit Gill Memorial Award for outstanding public service. Our country is not bereft of talent and expertise, even if this is not appreciated by the present government.
Fellow Gambians, these monumental achievements by individual Gambians should give us hope, hope that when our individual talents and knowledge are properly harnessed, our country The Gambia will be the ultimate beneficiary.Let us keep this hope alive and do everything within our powers to sustain it.I am sure we can do it if we accept the fact that we are all Gambians and we all wish the best for our country.
Let us be optimistic that the economic and social condition of the average Gambian may improve in 2013.The first month of 2013 should give us hope for a better future because traditionally we do believe that a new year will always envelop the best for us.ButJanuary 2013 is different from the previous years because the 1st January every year coincides with the eighth day of the birth of Christ; this year in the month January we will be celebrating the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad Peace Be on Him, and on this New Years day, Senegambians will be going to Touba to observe the Magal of Sheikh Ahmad Bamba of Touba.These are occasions that make us remember three great people - Prophet Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, Jesus Christ the Messiah and Sheikh Ahmad Bamba Khadim Rasoul - whose teachings inspire us to be honest, hardworking, God fearing, faithful and truthful and to accept that everything is transient except the rule of God the Almighty.
It is therefore important for us Gambians that as we enter the New Year ponder on the lives of these men and conduct ourselves as devoted Moslems and Christians.Let us enter the New Year holding ourselves out as Gambians.We should not allow our sectarian political views to make us shy away from speaking the truth.After all we are first and foremost Gambians before being members of any political organisation or grouping.
Leaders of every description and category must be prepared to sacrifice for the good of the nation and there can be no supreme sacrifice than to challenge the in-equities in the society and stand up for the wronged and deprived. Let us subordinate our individual selfish aspiration to the greater good of The Gambia.We must strive to build a just society, but we can only do so if justice guides our actions.
The lead role in creating a just and equitable society must be played by the Government of the day.It must grasp the reality of the situation and find solutions that our children would be proud of. We have seen examples of countries in more extreme situations come together and act as one. Our differences are minute compared to those countries that appear geographically and ethno-linguistically to be constituted by what appears to be different nations. We are convinced that if we are serious in our desire to make our country better for ourselves and our children, we should be able to forge ahead into the future with trust and confidence.
We must in the coming months be prepared to engage in a national dialogue that will address governance issues of every nature in this country.I call on the Executive and all other leaders to give consideration to the convening of a national conference to discuss not only political but also socio-economic problems confronting our beloved country, The Gambia.
Fellow Gambians I urge each and every one of us to pledge our firm allegiance to The Gambia our homeland and to renew our promise to The Gambia so that the great God of Nations will keep us to The Gambia ever true and not true to any individual or group of individuals.
On behalf of the entire membership of the United Democratic Party UDP, and on my own behalf, I wish you all, my fellow Gambians and the non Gambians resident here, a pleasant and prosperous 2013, endowed with genuine peace and tranquility. May God the Almighty bless us all.