Gambia: African Descendants in Gambia Raise Concern Over Non-Inclusion in New Constitution

23 September 2020

African Descendant residents in The Gambia that have repatriated permanently have raised concerns about their non-inclusion in the new 2020 draft constitution recently rejected by lawmakers.

Despite the recent report drafted by the Constitutional Review Commission including S188 that relates to an Exception Clause for African Descendants of the Enslaved. S188 suggests a reduction in the current 15 years wait for Citizenship by way of Naturalisation to 2-4 years.

At a press conference on Tuesday at Hypolink Village Resort along Senegambia, Juliet Ryan, co-founder and her husband Adrian Ryan of Bla-Xit Youtube Channel with almost 3 million views were like many other repatriates very upset and deeply troubled by the omission.

For Juliet it is high time for people to denounce all colonial rule as it is only designed to separate us.

"We had invested sizeable amount in The Gambia and our historical family lineage still remained Africa, we're Gambians and our ancestors were enslaved. Never able to return, so we are completing the circle to come home. Now we feel as though we have been forgotten about in terms of the constitution. It's a great disappointment to many of us and we realised we needed to have an official voice so we formed the Council Of African Descendants (COAD)," she explained.

Mathew Hypolite, proprietor of Hypolink Village Resort, who has been resident in The Gambia for the past 15 years, said COAD was conceived recently in The Gambia, adding that the initiative was something they had been struggling with for months now since the death of George Floyd in the United States.

"We felt that as a Caribbean and American community, people who come back from the Diaspora, it is essential to do something to help smooth the progress of people coming into The Gambia. We needed to do this in a constructive way," he said.

He indicated that COAD is an organisation that has to happen; saying they as people coming over to this country to settle; contribute significantly to the country.

"But recently we found ourselves in an awkward situation where our contribution almost amounts to nothing in the eyes of the people who are in power."

The issue, he said, came to the fore when they started to look at the new Draft Constitution and what it meant for them as people resettling in the country.

"The constitution basically labelled us as aliens, as it has no reference to who we are. Whereas places like Ghana these people are welcome back with open arms and giving them automatic citizens. Here Gambians have to reaslise we are you and you are us. We were taken away from Africa."

Luke McKenzie, chairperson of Council Of African Descendants (COAD), also expressed similar sentiments.

"This is a very important event for us. We have setup up this association to support our brothers coming in from America and Europe. We have been fighting for citizenship for a while. We have been promised, but after some many years of receiving warm words nothing happens," he said.

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