UDP has pulled out all activities that require crowds until May.
It has been reported that this move by the UDP is to combat the spread of COVID-19 Pandemic.
To make meaning out of this, one has to give it context.
The Gambia has been affected with COVID-19 Pandemic since March 2020.
Health statistics revealed that the country is being challenged with what becomes the biggest humanitarian crisis in several decades. The impact of the pandemic onto the The Gambia and its vulnerable people has been quite dramatic. There has been a steady increase in the number of health staff with coronavirus and it became a concern for the health professionals and the nation at large. Upon consideration of the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the world and in our region President Adama Barrow, following consultations from the Ministerial Committee on the Coronavirus, approved the closure of the border between the Republic of The Gambia and the Republic of Senegal, effective midnight, on 23rd March 2020. Furthermore, the Republic of the Gambia decided to close its airspace from all flights except for medical cargo flights. That closure also began midnight on Monday, 23rd March 2020, for a period of 21 days. The Human Rights Committee of the National Assembly recommended a 45-day extension of the State of Emergency.
The 262nd National Situation Report since the confirmation of the first case of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in The Gambia, on the 16th March 2020 showed 3 new COVID-19 related deaths recorded (from the 8th to the 11th February 2021), taking the total number of deaths, since March 2020, to 138, from February 8th to 11th 2021, a total of 112 new cases were registered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases ever confirmed in the country to 4,414. One will underscore the undiagnosed and unregistered cases.
These findings are very worrying especially now that the health regulations are no longer enforced. The threats are hanging over the Gambia. The strongest defense for the country has been prevention since the health care system is not adequately equipped for such health hazards. Government now announced it was banning, effective March 8th all activities that require crowds including political activities to combat a spread of COVID-19. This date 8th March is not dictated by epidemiological findings.
The Gambia became a safe haven for Senegalese musicians, intending to bypass social restrictions and curfew regulations, to stage parties and mega concerts in the Gambia. The social distancing, wearing of face mask, washing and sanitizing hands are not respected thereby exposing not only themselves but also Gambians to the deadly virus. It is under these circumstances that the United Democratic Party (UDP) leader Lawyer Ousainu Darboe speaking to citizens on the occasion of 56th anniversary of The Gambia’s independence declared: “Being advised on the current situation, the UDP has taken the responsible decision to postpone its well-organized fundraising event until after the Christian Lenten Period and after the Muslim Ramadan and we propose to reschedule to Saturday May 22”. Any conscious Gambian, particularly health workers, will perceive such move as plausible commitment. A pandemic of this global magnitude is very much alarming and public health measures should not be delayed. Do not jeopardize people’s life. As the saying goes ‘hit the nail whilst the hammer is hot’. And to buttress his concern lawyer Darboe has given due consideration to the diverse religions. Although this is a positive reaction the UDP should ensure that other party functions, as seen recently in the North Bank, are discouraged unless it could be guaranteed that, hand sanitizing, social distancing and wearing of masks are mandatory. The primary intervention measures should be maintained.
The people of the Gambia are people of faith. God is the master of the universe and should not be forgotten by those in power. There is religious diversity and respect to this diversity is a good thought. It is a responsible decision to postpone its well-organized fundraising event until after the Christian Lenten Season period and after the Muslim Ramadan. Our leadership must not forget her people and the traditional norms and values widely cherished by all religious denominations in the country. Lawyer Darboe is seen setting the pace in the area of fostering religious cohesion in The Gambia; leaving a vital lesson not only for the Barrow administration but for all other political parties and organizations of social crowd gathering events such as: meetings, concerts and galas etc. Welcome! Well said Darboe; great move the UDP leadership; at-least you are thinking objectively. Sensitivity to our health and to our diverse nation is quite plausible.
I will conclude by remarking that no matter what government, politicians or health educators say or do the ultimate responsibility towards COVID-19 PANDEMIC is the ‘people’ themselves. The people of the Gambia should take individual responsibility to fend off the virus and discipline is the key; protect yourself and your neighbor. If the people should refuse to attend these public gatherings there won’t be any crowd; then the chain of transmission breaks and there will be fewer infections and fewer deaths.