Citizens’ Alliance has been following with concern the recent events involving the 3 years Jotna protest and The Gambia government’s response to it.
We acknowledge that the right to peacefully protest is a fundamental pillar of any democracy. It is an additional outlet – beside the ballot box – for citizens to hold their elected leaders to task and make their desires known. We believe the best governments are the ones that treat protests as a vital part of the national conversation, rather than as an excuse to crack down on dissenting opinions and imprison opponents.
The 2016 election was monumental because Gambia did not just decide on a new President. Our vote was also a repudiation of a system of Government, which removed sovereignty from the hands of the people, had no respect for the rule of law and did not allow even the mildest form of dissent. Protests were brutally dispersed and journalists treated with a heavy hand. This had a chilling effect on our political discourse. It also removed accountability, an important element of effective governance. It is our collective duty to guard against a return to this dark part of our history.
We urge all parties involved to keep in mind that though the national conversation may be raucous at times it is still important that we continue to have it, with all participants starting from a place of goodwill: that we are all in this for the betterment of Gambia. The beauty of a multiparty democracy is that we can disagree on almost everything while never losing sight of that fact.
While the unfortunate event that took place was a stain to our new democracy, we must not forget the most vulnerable in this New Gambia. The people who lack the basics, and have been lingering on the edge of survival for generations, due to poor Governance. In the NBR, along Nuimi and Badibou people are plagued with the everyday struggle just to get by in communities where clean water is a privilege and children risk being born. This has been going on for too long but it only takes a people with a purpose to change that.