By Omar Bah
As he announced his intention to run for president, former TRRC lead counsel Essa Mbye Faal struggled to control his tears as he recounted the country’s terrible health delivery system which he said are among reasons he decided to contest.
Faal, who said even his parents approved of his intention to go into politics before they died, formally declared Friday at the American International University in Kanifing that he will contest the December presidential election.
The former counselor for legal affairs at the Gambia Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York started his official unveiling speech with an emotional description of the poor state of the country’s health system, highlighting his father’s case as a sample who he said was avoidably left to die.
“The medical or the health care service in this country is a death trap. You go to these hospitals with a headache – you come out in a stretcher. That is how bad it is – we are all victims. People are dying because there are no gloves or rudimentary facilities to carry out basic procedures to help them,” Faal said.
He added that he spent “a lot of time in Dakar, Senegal and most of the times he received calls from Gambian numbers to hear that a Gambian died in a hospital in Dakar and they needed help to repatriate the body.
“That is how bad it is. My father who I love so dearly passed away last year in circumstances that could have been avoided. He was taken to Serekunda hospital very early in the morning. Apparently, his blood sugar level had gone up and doctors were trying to stabilize it and sometime around the evening, a Gambian doctor who was married to my former classmate called me privately and said to me, ‘you should do something for your father because if you don’t take him out of here, he will die unnecessarily’. I looked at her and said but why and she said to me, he is now showing symptoms that he will leap into diabetic coma and if he is not put in intensive care, I will lose him because he should have been in intensive care since the morning. So I asked her why because she had been there the whole day and why didn’t she not taken the old man in intensive care? Her reply was because they don’t have one. I was shocked. A whole hospital didn’t have an intensive care unit that could have saved my father,” Essa Faal added.
He said he made arrangements to take his father to “a hospital where he could have an intensive care unit but when he called that hospital, the first thing they told him was ‘can you afford it? It is very expensive”.
“I thought our primary preoccupation would have been how to save a person’s life. I said to the person, yes we can afford it and we now had to plan to get an ambulance to get him to the hospital and even after securing the ambulance, there was no driver or keys to the ambulance but fortunately we were able to reach the driver but he said he must take his bath and eat his dinner before he could come. We had to wait because we had no choice. The driver arrived but the old man was already suffering and was put in a Covid-19 ambulance but we were only eventually able to reach the hospital after over an hour’s drive because this country has no roads and a few hours later the old man died,” Faal said, as he shed tears.
He said the country is at a crossroads.
“The country is regressing and our people are suffering,” he said.
However, Faal said he believes he is the best candidate for The Gambia ahead of the 2021 presidential election.
“I believe I am second to none [to all of the presidential candidates]. I have a track record of success in everything I do,” he said.
Faal, whose campaign mantra is development, empowerment, hope and change for a better Gambia, said under his leadership, he will turn things around.
He said President Barrow’s rule has come to an end when he [Barrow] himself said in Mandinka “abanta ferreng.”
“Our generation is being called to step on the plate and stop the abdication. We are being called to come and save our country and stop giving our back to it and that is why I am running for president,” said Faal.
Addressing the economy, Faal said the challenges facing the country’s economy are also part of his agenda because there is abject poverty in the country.
Victims of human rights violations
“There is one important issue that is very dear to my heart. For 22 years, from 1994 to 2017, Gambians suffered with too many people victimized and I would make it a crusade to ensure justice for those victims. I know it would come with a price, but justice would be done and I will not lead a government that will sweep it under the carpet. I will not lead a government that would play political comedy with the lives of the victims. That will not happen in an administration that I lead. I will ensure that all victims would get the reparation that they need and the recognition that they deserved,” he stated.