By Awa Macalo
Repatriated African descendants resident in The Gambia have called on President Adama Barrow and the National Assembly to assist them with automatic citizenship.
The rejection of the draft constitution by MPs on Tuesday found the members of the African descendant community in the country in the middle of launching an organisation to fight for their interest.
They come from various parts of the world such as the UK, USA and the Caribbean and after spending several years living in the country have now formed an organization called the ‘Council of African descendants (COAD)’.
The rejected draft constitution had provided Section 188 which suggested a reduction in the current 15 years wait for citizenship by way of naturalisation to 2-4 years.
But African Descendants at a press conference on Tuesday at Hypolink Village Resort said they must not be viewed as foreigners in Africa.
Juliet Ryan, who co-founded Bla-Xit Youtube Channel with her husband Adrian Ryan, said Africa and Gambia in particular should denounce all colonial rules which “are only designed to separate us.”
“We are Gambians and our ancestors were enslaved. Never able to return, so we are completing the circle to come home. Now we feel as though we have been forgotten and rejected. It is a great disappointment to many of us and we realised we needed to speak out,” she said.
She however added that they will not give up on trying to have citizenship. She said with or without a citizenship they will still contribute to the growth of The Gambia because they have its best interest at heart.
The proprietor of Hypolink, Mathew Hypolite, who claims to have been resident in The Gambia for the past 15 years, said: “We felt that as a Caribbean and US community, people who come back from the Diaspora, it is essential to do something to help smooth the progress of people coming into The Gambia. We needed to do this in a constructive way.”
“I have been in The Gambia for so long and I own a business that employs a lot of Gambians and is contributing to the country. We have a lot of people that are also with the intention of coming into the country with great development plans and all we want is to feel accepted and be at home,” he said.
“But recently we found ourselves in an awkward situation where our contribution almost amounts to nothing in the eyes of the people who are in power,” he added.
He said the constitution which was rejected by lawmakers basically labelled them as aliens, as it has no reference to who they are.
“Whereas places like Ghana people like us are welcome back with open arms and giving automatic citizens, here Gambians have to realise we are you and you are us. We were taken away from Africa,” he added.
The chairperson of the Council of African Descendants (COAD), Luke McKenzie, said the association is set up to support “our brothers coming in from America and Europe. We have been fighting for citizenship for a while. We have been promised, but after some many years of receiving warm words nothing happens.”
“Having a citizenship to them is knowing that they belong and won’t have to feel scared after moving into the country. We will feel secure and not discriminated against if we are given citizenship. Our investments in the country are going to stay and unlike other foreign businesses their earnings are sent out of the country. All we want is to make Africa great again,” said by Luke McKenzie, the chairperson of COAD.