After thirty-odd years in power, the PPP had atrophied and many Gambians even within the PPP wanted a change. But hopes of a change of the old guard were dashed on the rocks of Mansa Konko after Saihou Sabally, Alhaji Alieu Badjie and others waged a spirited campaign to make their party leader and president of the country, Sir Dawda Jawara, change his mind about wanting to hand over the baton and resign.
By all indications, Jawara was grooming Saihou Sabally to take over from him in the end. After Sabally and his cohorts managed to change his mind about resigning, President Jawara made the Sabach Sanjal politician vice president, minister of defence and women’s affairs et cetera. This was an unpopular choice because many people in the country did not fancy Sabally. His reputation and credibility took a bad knock from which it didn’t recover in the libel trial involving journalist Sanna Manneh.
So the coup, when it happened, was welcomed by many and it was certainly not met by any demonstrable public defiance or violence. Lt Yahya Jammeh and his fellow military ruling council members announced to the world that they were soldiers with a difference knowing the story of military takeovers and the state of post-coup states in Africa and elsewhere. Transparency, good governance, the fight against rampant corruption and probity became their buzzwords.
They set up commissions of enquiry to probe the affairs of the PPP oligarchy and public institutions and embarked on great infrastructural works which have opened up The Gambia particularly the peri-urban coastal regions of Kombo North and South. A university, hospitals, a television station, a thousand kilometres of motorable roads, etc etc. They set up public institutions like the Independent Electoral Commission, the National Council for Civic Education, Office of the Ombudsman and so forth and so forth.
In the passage of time, there were the high moments and the low moments. The very bitter and the very sweet. Great pain and great joy. But the state of The Gambia has remained intact and is thriving in many fronts. There have been many successes but there are many challenges that confront us as individuals, as communities and as a nation.
While we celebrate the 20th anniversary of President Jammeh as captain of the ship of the Gambian state, we should reflect on what we are going to do as individuals and as groups to take our country forward. Where do we want The Gambia to be in the next twenty years? What are the things we have to change, what are the things we have to keep? What are our constitutionally mandated rights? What are our social responsibilities to our communities and our state?
These questions need more than superficial answers. As we congratulate His Excellency, The President on his landmark 20 years in power, we urge him to continue to be a president for all Gambians irrespective of tribe, religion, region and social background. We urge him to regard political opponents as fellow Gambians interested in moving The Gambia forward albeit from a different perspective. We urge him to show tolerance for dissenting views and regard journalists and other rights activists as partners in development. We urge him to seek better relations with other countries around the world. We urge him to continue to champion the case for Gambian women and Gambian youths and for Africa. Happy July 22nd to all!]]>