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Monday, October 2, 2023

African descendants seek private bill over citizenship appeal

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By Omar Bah

Council of African Descendants, a community of people from African ancestors born outside who have now returned to the continent and are found in many African countries including The Gambia, have now requested for a Private Member Bill at the National Assembly that will make a provision for them to acquire citizenship.

The group made the appeal at an event dubbed ‘Unity In The Community’ organised to give African descendants, National Assembly members, and a host of other interest groups the opportunity to discuss inclusion, investment, and business opportunities in The Gambia.

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The group’s request for a private bill followed an unsuccessful attempt to meet President Adama Barrow over their pursuit for citizenship status. The group had also managed unsuccessfully to get the CRC to make a provision for them to acquire citizenship in the new constitution.

Speaking at a well-attended event on Thursday, COAD secretary, Madam Juliet Ryan, said: “Let’s change the constitution to remember us – this can be done via Private Members Bill. We are asking for a private members’ bill to be sponsored in order to effect this change. We don’t have five or ten years to wait”.

She said the group has been waiting to have an audience with the president since 2019, adding, “We are seeing everybody coming and getting an audience with the president but us. All the action groups and nations and nationalities.

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“We want equal rights – we don’t want to be treated as outsiders. We don’t want our rights taken away from us. We want to be investing here on an equal basis and on equal footing as Gambian residents and citizens. We don’t want to be discriminated against anymore. We don’t want to wait for fifteen years more to become citizens. It is not fair and it is not right,” she said.

Ryan said the group has tremendous investment plans for the country and all they need is to be given the opportunity to live in the country as citizens.

Relishing on the opportunities African descendants can bring to the country, Ryan said in Ghana $1.9 billion was raised in less than one year by African descendants because Ghana has opened the door for them. She appealed for security for the number of African descendants returning to reintegrate.

Abdoulie Ceesay, Omar Darboe, and Baba Galleh Jallow, all National Assembly members assured the group of their unflinching support in their pursuit to secure citizenship.

Addressing the business prospects in The Gambia, Ambassador-at-large for business and finance, Modou Lamin Sima, said the investment is highly welcome under the leadership of President Barrow.

“No matter what kind of business one wants to do in The Gambia, you are welcome. But the government is particularly interested in encouraging investment in many specific areas, especially agriculture. The Gambia is peaceful and we have a very peaceful leader who respects human rights,” he said. Sima said registering “a business in The Gambia is not difficult because the country has a liberal market.”

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