By Hamedou Drammeh
& M. Sajo Jallow
On 4th December, 2021, Gambians will be deciding once again who occupies State House with an agenda for the next five years. We have done this selection many times as sovereign citizens, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region. The right to vote who rules, or mis-rules, is ours to keep for generations.
Our comrade and brother, Ousman Manjang, passed away on Sunday, 6th October, 2019, but the African agenda he dedicated his political life to lives on. It is as Frantz Fanon taught us, that each generation must do what it takes for progress to happen.
Africa’s progressive agenda was part of the Gambian struggle for the cause of the people, through the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Foundation. Later on, the Movement for Justice in Africa founded in Liberia inspired the formation of the Gambian chapter.
Liberal politics under the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime led to underground activities, and ultimately exile for some. Lifting of the ban on MOJA (G) in late 1992 brought some back, with Comrade Ousman leading the way by example. He worked tirelessly for this African Agenda, based on defending human rights and ending mass poverty through independent, cooperative means.
This agenda for a life in dignity is timeless. It is an aspiration for Africa and its diaspora, for humanity. However, it has suffered from serious challenges due to the negligence of elitist, nouveau-riche regimes from independence to-date.
Beyond narrow nationalist agenda
How was the impasse of the last elections ended? It was done through moral and material solidarity beyond Gambian borders. The result of the ballot was enforced with the bullet, operation restore democracy. This was anchored not only in the regional bloc ECOWAS (Economic community of West African States), but also in the African Union and UN-System. The situation in Mali, and now Guinea, reminds that national well-being is guaranteed through our continental mechanism. There is a common defense policy for Africa, and The Gambia’s role and responsibility needs to be defined during elections.
And why is the re-export trade so important for the Gambian economy? Colonial plunder, with extreme violence, determined the borders north and south of the Gambia River. We have a land-locked economy, except for the opening west to the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, Gambian exports and re-exports serve both the local people and populations beyond. Credit goes to the transition government for its contribution to establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, with effect from 1st January, 2021. How can the Gambian economy be further integrated into this African socio-economic space?
African ancestors fought for this game-changer, through political organization and the 1991 Abuja Treaty. A troubled journey awaits, however, if wealth and income inequality rise as a result. What is to be done on this strategic matter for Africa?
Cooperation for Africa
Governing or aspiring regimes may build coalitions, but the people organize to advance and protect their interests. Past and on-going strike actions remind us of this historical fact. Through African cooperation more can be achieved, especially in holding the governing elite to account; educating all the youth; and advancing community interests, including health and livelihood for all.
Take financing agro-industrial development, in support of women and the youth. Government is for development bank, as organized people are for Joni-Joni or cooperative bank. The PPP regime tried and failed. The APRC (Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction) and transition regimes did not bother. What is the position of all the aspirants on this strategic issue?
It is with this African agenda in mind that Brother Ousman worked tirelessly under the cooperative umbrella, GAMSEM (Gambians for self-employment), undeterred by more frustrations under the APRC regime. The Coalition of human rights defenders also engaged him. Progress for the people, however limited, is the ultimate prize of sacrifice. He struggled, and passed on, so that Africa rises in dignity. That was his vote of conscience, valid for freedom and justice in all ages.
Once again, rest in peace Comrade Brother.