Civil Servants, APRC National Assembly Members, Members of the Councils and some party supporters were mobilised to march from Arch22 to July 22 and converged at the gate of state house in Banjul, on Monday the 11th January 2013, to be addressed by President Yahya Jammeh and to deliver their position against the 17 points raised by the European Union under article 8 of the Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific states.
The EU raised 17 points that it said are vital for discussion and settlement. They put their proposals within a time frame.
President Jammeh called an emergency cabinet meeting on the 8th of January 2013 to discuss the matter and to explain his stance .Jammeh informed his ministers that his government will not implement any of the seventeen issues raised by the EU. He said the conditionality reflects an aim to recolonise Gambia and Africa which he said would not happen in his life time.
He also chastised foreign powers for wanting to steal Gambia's abundant natural resources and he Jammeh would not allow them. He mentioned the discovery of oil and other natural resources and said the oil is not exploited because he would not allow 5% of the profit to be given to the Gambia.
Proposals for discussion put forward by the European Union to the Government of The Gambia but rejected by President Jammeh at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 8 January 2013 are as follows;
1. Commitment of Government of the Gambia to allow the free operation of independent media in The Gambia within a deadline of one month;
2. Removal of restrictive barriers/monetary/regulatory to registration and licensing of the media;
3. Removal of restriction on accessing and sharing information electronically within one month;
4. Revision of provision in the criminal code that allow for prosecution on the charges of sedition, libel, false publication and false information to a public servant within 6 months,
5. Revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months
6. Upholding of moratorium on death penalty with immediate effect
7. Provision of information regarding the recent executions, and including location of burial to families within one month
8. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly within 12 months
9. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly and to propose to introduce a de jure moratorium within 24 months
10. Review of the provision of the death penalty in the element of the criminal code and other laws for most serious crimes within six months
11. That the Government sign and ratify the second optional protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights within 18 months
12. Conclusion of an MOU with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow them access to prison facilities on regular basis within 3 months
13. Provision of regular and timely access for diplomatic corps within one month
14. Presentation of costed proposals to improve prison detention facility condition within 12 months
15. Provision of information on the UN Convention against torture ratified on June 6th 2006 within 3 months
16. Signing of the optional protocols to the convention against torture within 6 months
17. Establishment of the Human Rights Commission proposed by the Commonwealth secretariat.
The Procession and Demonstration
It is very difficult for Foroyaa to give a clear information on the social composition of the marchers. Some claimed that they were public servants who were asked to join the march by their superiors. Others were APRC National Assembly members and other party stalwarts. It appears that much effort was not put to mobilize a respectable broad base crowd that would drive home a National Message.
Interestingly enough, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Regional Administration, Mr Saihou Sanyang is the one who read the solidarity message from the marchers and forwarded it to the President.
Mr Sanyang indicated that they do not agree with the conditionalities raised in the EU's memorandum to the Gambia Government on the basis of substance, intent, procedure and what he described as the Neo-Colonialists overt intentions;
He added that the conditionalities have violated the sovereign rights of the Gambian people and they assure their leader that they would die for him to keep that;
They accused the EU of going beyond the limits of the genuine and balanced dialogue by laying down conditionalities with time frames prior to consultations on such measures ,which according to them, are high handed;
He said the EU's action further indicates direct interference in the domestic affairs of this country and they shall not accept it;
That the Gambia National Assembly takes up this matter to the EU Parliament in a matter that would maintain and uphold the dignity of the country.
The President's Reply
President Jammeh indicated that the fact that he was born after Independence clearly shows that he did not want to be born under colonialism. He told the few people who were allowed to enter the statehouse gate that the Yahya Jammeh who was prepared to give his life in 1994 to liberate the country is the same Yahya Jammeh who is ready to die to prevent recolonisation.
After receiving a copy of the solidarity statement of the marchers, he stressed that his government is not dependent on the IMF or the World Bank; that any international body is welcome to dialogue with the Gambia with respect and dignity as long as the dialogue does not insult their integrity and independence.
He said he is not anti West, East, North or South but he is anti imperialism, and will remain anti hypocrites because he is a muslim and he should not work with hypocrites. He said in 1995, the EU came up with a declaration that they the coup makers were given two (2) months to handover to a civilian government they overthrew, otherwise there would be sanctions and that they the EU prophesised that the Gambia would suffer if he did not agree to their demands because Gambians would starve.
The Gambian leader is quoted as saying : "that was the day I told them that they can take their aid, their World Bank and IMF and that i have a bank that would make sure that Gambians would not suffer for a decade and they will one day come and ask how i develop the Gambia",.
President Jammeh said they looked at him and said in an arrogant manner that: "Mr. Chairman, the IMF and World Bank will not work with you. "He said he told them that they don't know what creation is all about" but that he relies on what he calls Allah's World Bank.
We will follow the response of the EU and the population to enable our readers to have a balanced perspective