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Sunday, September 20, 2020

HISTORIAN EULOGISES UNSUNG INDEPENDENCE HEROES

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Mr Ceesay said independence was not the work of politicians alone, but there were journalists, women and youths who did not ‘give the colonialists any time to sleep’. 

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“The journalists led this country to independence. That is why I said their role should be re-assessed. Maybe, you journalists should do more research on the important role that the media played in the battle for independence. I am talking about newspapers like The Gambia Echo, The Gambia Outlook, Senegambia Reporter, the Vanguard, and The Gambia Public Opinion. These were newspapers published in Bathurst by Gambians and they helped to mobilise public opinion against colonial rule. It is unfortunate that when we talk about anti-colonial movements in The Gambia, we only talk about politicians like PS Njie, Garba Jahumpa, Kairaba Jawara, Reverend JC Faye, Kebba Wally Foon, and St Clare Joof and so on. These politicians played a significant role, but we must not also forget the role that other groups of people have played. 

“Women were also very much part of the struggle. Women like Hanna Forster, a millionaire had spent a huge amount of her money on anti-colonial parties in the country at the time, like the Gambia Democratic Party. Just as the role of the journalists should be highlighted, so should the role of the youth. In those days, there were many youth movements like the Turnya Movement that were fighting to end colonialism in the country. So, the independence struggle was not a one-man show. Really, it was a complete movement – the press was there, the political class, the youth groups, women organisations like the Gambia Women Federation and so on. Opposition to colonial rule in the country was not violent. That is why even during the colonial rule, King George VI and Queen Victoria used to call The Gambia “the most loyal colony” because even after forcing themselves on us, our people had tried to make the best out of a very difficult situation and they were able to achieve independence without violence as had happened in Kenya, Congo and others.

“We got our independence from Great Britain on February 18, 1965, but the struggle began long before that. We have to also pay tribute to people we called pro-nationalist. These were the people who have first raised their hands against colonial rule. I am talking about Foday Kabba, who resisted the colonial rule in the Fonis, Foday Sillah in the Kombos, and Sheikh Matty Bah in Kombo. These were the earliest resistance leaders who have decided, at a very early stage, to oppose colonial rule. Another example is Kay Luntang Camara, the king of Niani, who defeated the British at the battle of Nunku Seeh, in 1834. So, these are the people who prepared the stage for the future nationalists, who would salvage the country from colonial bondage. You have to remember also that these are the people who exposed the colonial rule to opposition because the system was characterised by labour and resource exploitation, oppression and repression. During the colonial rule, there was never a time when the colonial masters were able to sleep because they knew that they were imposing their wills on people who used to be free. So, that is why the second characteristic of colonial rule is repression through the laws. The colonialists had, for example, instituted laws they called ordinances and one of those laws had been imposed to prevent Gambians from owning river boats. River boats were so important at the time because river transport was the only means of transport at the time. This was back in the 1920s.”

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