HAVE WE ATTAINED THE AIMS OF INDEPENDENCE?

By Lamin Sanyang

Journalist/Writer

Thousands of people gathered at the national stadium to celebrate half-a-century of the country’s independence from British colonialism.  The event was marked with march pasts, musical jamboree and a banquet for the dignitaries. I hope, the foreign dignitaries and invited guests were really entertained.

The word independence could be defined as freedom from domination. When you’re independent of something it cannot control or dictate your actions. It means you’re the master of your own destiny.

The political independence of the country is meaningless without linking it to the sovereignty of its people. In the same way, a country cannot be economically independent without eradicating hunger on its people. No nation should call itself independent and continue to beg for economic support for half a century.

It’s interesting to know after 50 years of independence, The Gambia is still listed as one of the poorest countries in the world. I mean, after 50 years of independence The Gambia is listed among the highly indebted countries in the world. After 50 years of independence, The Gambia is a highly donor dependent country. I hate to say this about us but it is the truth.

I remembered the complaints about the inefficiency of those who assumed the affairs of the state in the first republic. There were increasing complaints about the previous plunging of the country into real regression. It was said that a portion of society enjoyed all the privileges while the masses were marginalized. It is claimed that it was that status quo that contributed to the abortive coup of July 1981 and the military took over in July 1994.

Where are we after 1994? Is detention without trial in line with the aims of Independence? Is urban and rural poverty in line with aims of Independence? Is mounting national debt in line with the aims of Independence?

The Gambia belongs to the Gambians. There would not be any country called Gambia without the Gambians. It should be clear to all and sundry that the independence of The Gambia is meaningless without the total independence of the Gambian people. The land and its people are not separable.

The population of the Gambia is estimated to be less than two million. Those appointed to positions of authority must realise that those positions do not belong to them. They belong to the Gambian population.

There are two kinds of patriots. You have patriotism in defence of a country and patriotism in defense of a leadership. The person loyal to a country would do whatever it takes to protect the interest of the country while the latter would protect only the interest of their leaders. Many would claim to be patriots but would sacrifice the country for the sake of their leaders.

It does not matter whether you’re a member of the ruling party or opposition but the interest of the country is bigger than your party leader. No genuine Gambian should blindly follow a leader against the interest of our nation.

This country does not belong to the politicians. It is time to flush out politics of emotions to the gutters of history. We need good thinkers who would think clearly without inferiority complex. It’s only then we can become masters of our own destiny.

Political figures in the ruling party should not criticize the injustices of the past without acknowledging the injustices of the present. What about those acquitted and discharged but were re-arrested without court order. We cannot condemn the past to justify the present. What was wrong for the first republic is also wrong for the second republic. You don’t condemn injustice in one place and turn a blind eye to it in another case.   The list on detention without trial and disappearance without trace is a growing concern.

The culture of fear is deeply rooted in our society. Many are afraid to speak their minds on issues of national interest. They would rather prefer to gossip in safe corners than openly express their true feelings. This is undermining the independence of the motherland. When a nation is truly independent, the people should enjoy the air of liberty to express themselves openly. They should enjoy the right to freedom of association and freedom of business. They should feel the sense of nationhood.

The continuous denial of divergent views on the national broadcasters is affecting our democracy. These institutions were built from the tax-payers’ money. There is no question of party colours in the payment of tax. There shouldn’t be any monopoly. What is the reason of holding grudge or resentment against people that do not share our political beliefs? We’re a nation of 2 million people with different ethnic and political backgrounds. No Gambian should be denied licence to open private televisions and radio stations and  broadcast divergent views.

There was a time when people used to buy sim cards for five hundred dalasi. They would make

long queues under the hot burning sun to buy the sim card. Things started to change after the advent of private companies. Today, you can get a sim card for ten dalasi from any shop without any queue. The companies are now competing to get more subscribers through better service deliveries.

The same thing can be said about the television. The state should go ahead to issue licence to private citizens that are interested. Apart from generating revenue to the state, it would encourage competition for better service deliveries. It would compel them to come with better programmes.

If we are to enjoy the blessings of Independence, the decisions and orders of courts must be respected. The police and intelligence officers must do their job according to law without dictation. National Assembly members should be able to speak in defence of the people without fear of reprisal.

The state of our economy is a concern. I may not be a student of economics but I know that the economy of a country cannot be performing when the currency is losing its value and people are losing their purchasing power, thus making life a constant struggle. Everyone knows the dalasi is not doing well.

The realities on the ground show that the nation is facing serious economic hardship. Many are relying on remittances from family members abroad. Without remittances many families would starve to death!

How can you be living in a country which is supposed to be economically independent and continue to import the staple food of the country?

This country is very small in size, to develop it shouldn’t be difficult. It’s a question of proper investment of state resources for the development of the citizenry. We cannot continue to import our staple food from outside.

We do not need a president who could do everything for everyone. That is impossible anyway. We need to come together to do things for ourselves.We must come together to salvage our country for good reasons.

May God bless The Gambia.