The leader of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe, has called for national reconciliation, to honour what he referred to as the memory of people who has given selfless services to this country, citing the late Assan Musa Camara, former Vice President of The Gambia, who passed away late last year.
Darboe, who was speaking in an interview with our reporter, also joined calls for President Yahya Jammeh to be magnanimous enough to grant amnesty to all political prisoners.
"I want to say that he (Jammeh) should do honour to this great Gambian who has been selfless, who has been humble, who was honest and very patriotic, in his memory," he stated.
"When I say political prisoners, I mean all those who were sentenced on treasonable offences and those who on the account of their activities as members of the opposition parties have been sentenced. I think that we should be starting the year 2014 in that way. That will be good for the memory of Assan Musa Camara and Nelson Mandela, a man that every African leader acclaimed to be an icon," Darboe said.
Reflecting on the year 2013, the UDP leader said at the close of 2012, Gambians had looked forward to the year 2013 with optimism, with hope that 2013 would see some improvements in their lives in every aspect; that the level of poverty in the country would be reduced drastically.
"It was with those hopes that we entered into 2013, but 2013 was certainly a year that did not see the fulfillment of our hopes. It was a year that saw a massive reduction in the standard of living of ordinary Gambians. It showed that the earning capacity of Gambians were seriously impaired. It was not possible for us to have three square meals for the family," he opined.
In his view, the hospitals have ceased to be an institution that provides the required services for the people, while the schools have also not registered the success that many have anticipated.
"If you looked at the results announced for the grade 12s, less than 10% of the students were able to score aggregate 6, which I think speaks volumes of not only the quality; but also the standard of education in the country. What has happened in 2013 should really be an impetus, it should be really a driving force for every Gambian to really work hard, so that 2014 becomes a year in which there will be with less hardship, among others," he noted.
According to Darboe, he had in the past called for a national dialogue on the state of the economy; that the problems of the currency, and the economy hould be addressed.
"There were also hopes that the year 2013 would be a year where tolerance would be shown by the executive, but 2013 really, especially at the end of it, has been a very turbulent period not only for the opposition, but also those working for the government," he recalled.