MANIFESTO 2016 FOR A BETTER GAMBIA
DR. ISATOU TOURAY
2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
EQUALITY AND UNITY FOR CHANGE AND PROGRESS
My emblem is the broom
Why the Broom?
This is a bundle of sticks strapped together. Each represents one Gambian or group of Gambians still possessed of individuality, but bound together in the spirit of unity and focused on one goal – to bring change for progress - with all the others in the broom that is the Gambia.
The individual sticks (people or group) may be snapped over a weak person’s knee. But bound together, the collective is invincible.
The spirit of the broom is rooted in unity, strength, endurance and healthy living.
Change is the only constant thing in life. The time for change has come. This is the time of great turning and the people of the Gambia must turn with it or miss the opportunity to create a better Gambia, for ourselves, our children and future generations. But we can effect this change only by coming together.
UNITY IN PURPOSE!
Kang Killing, Nganiyakilling!
BenaBaat, Bena Keene!
CHANGE FOR A BETTER GAMBIA
CHANGE THAT BRINGS PROGRESS
CHANGE IS CERTAIN
PROGRESS DEPENDS ON THE CHOICES WE MAKE TODAY FOR TOMORROW, AND THE COURAGE AND FORTITUDE TO MEET OUR CHALLENGES
Gambians are hardworking and peace loving people. In the last two decades I have traversed the length and breadth of this country, I have met hardworking men and women in the city, towns and villages, and have heard your stories and aspirations. I have also heard your frustrations. I am inspired and motivated by you the Gambians, by your desire for change in the face of immense economic hardship, restrictions on our freedom and personal liberty.
Alerted by a deep sense of concern for the Gambia, committed to our country’s advancement unfettered by repression, abuse, impunity and persecution, I have observed the current dispensation over the years.
What I have seen is a deteriorating Gambia with deteriorating institutions, where those in authority abuse state power to instill fear and hopelessness within the people. Gambians today are not free to say what they think. Fear and terror, through the abuse of state power, have so gripped the people that, most will look behind their shoulders before they speak.
The immediate and compelling task before us all is to awaken our consciousness of the sovereign power that resides in us – the people - to use our votes as the instrument of change to free ourselves from the rule of fear and terror, unleashed by a regime that created a series of laws or made amendments to existing laws that erode the rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.
I also observed the trends and patterns of the systematic mismanagement of our limited resources. Two decades of APRC misrule witnessed a series of false starts. While Gambians were yearning for results, APRC’s visions became mere illusions and so called operations were compromised.
During the recent past, the Gambia’s economy has been challenged by shocks, largely domestic and to a lesser extent external, resulting in low growth and resurgence inflation. The financial position weakened considerably compounded by weak policy implementation, particularly as regards excessive spending relative to mobilization and dwindling external budgetary support.
Those in power are not listening to the demands for political or economic reform. Conditions for political participation have been so crafted that political pluralism has been curtailed, generating a feeling of powerlessness among many. Too much power is concentrated in too few hands. We need a new approach to government that involves the people in decisions that affect them. Those who make decisions on behalf of others are too often not accountable. I will restore the sovereignty of the people, end impunity and decentralize authority and power.
It is my fervent belief and conviction that we can bring about change for a better Gambia by directing our efforts and political capital towards one end - the singular pragmatic goal of ushering in a new and third republic that brings progress by building strong democratic instruments and institutions, repealing the obnoxious laws that restrict our freedom and liberty, building a strong economy, and leveling the political playing field, so that the sovereign will of Gambians will always prevail in their choice of leadership.
If elected, I am committed to serve for one five year term only, working with all those who have the capacity and commitment to salvage the Gambia as it totters on the brink of total collapse. Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance. We cannot walk it alone neither can we turn back. Together, we can bring the change that is needed. Principles and values need not be compromised, but strategies and tactics must be flexible enough to make progress possible, especially under the difficult political conditions we face.
Everything I learnt in my years of work with the women, men and the youth of this country, and in academia, has convinced me that Gambians need a president that will serve them, not one that looks down on them, a president who will uphold the constitution, the rule of law and restore good governance; a government that will bring economic prosperity to Gambians. People want more say in the decisions that affect their lives. The old command and control politics, doing things to and for people, but never with them, has not and will not work.
True democracy does not mean voting every five years. True democracy requires the active participation of all citizens in planning the development programmes and activities for their localities, working with their wards, Village Development Committees and other development committees. People will be allowed to take leadership in advancing the best interest based on the common good.
Together we can stop further degeneration of our beloved country and contribute to give it a new lease of life where hope, love and appreciation of each other, respect for fundamental freedom, dignity of the person, rule of law and peace will thrive, in an entity that is nothing other than Gambian, ensuring that nobody is victimized on the basis of tribe, religion or political affiliation For this is the true nature of the Gambian people.
Gambians face a dire situation with the APRC regime and every Gambian has a story to tell. But I urge you to muster courage and strengthso that we can make the Gambia better. I seek your support in our quest to bring the Gambia out of isolation, to build bridges and linkages with peoples of other nations in partnerships that safeguard, protect and promote the interest of the Gambia as a sovereign state. Gambia’s interest is best served by engaging with other nation states and being part of the wider international community and family of nations.
I want us to usher in a Gambia that will bring on board the hearts and minds of all Gambians in the Diaspora, including those who left the country because of the tribulations, persecutions, fear and abuses they face as private citizens, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, and activists, but more than anything else, a new Gambia of economic prosperity, freedom, rule of law, peace and stability.
The youth of this country are frustrated and their hopes dashed. Those born at the cusp of the second republic have now come of age. Twenty years of APRC rule has failed to give them opportunities to fulfill their aspirations and achieve their goals. What their country has failed to give them i. e. jobs and decent living, they try to seek elsewhere, embarking on perilous journeys across the harsh desert and the wild Mediterranean. The Gambia needs you most now of all times, as nation builders and agents of change to build a better Gambia for us all. Your votes are your weapons to effect the change you desire. Under our sovereign third republican constitution, we can be the architects of our own destiny.
By investing more in the productive base of the economy, in the private as well as in the public sector, by avoiding wasteful spending, we will create more jobs that would motivate the young generation of school leavers and job seekers, remain in the country. We will motivate and encourage Gambian scholars and academics abroad to return and contribute their quota.
We will encourage and lure the private sector to open opportunities to the young people to earn a decent living and fulfill their dreams. We must preserve the Gambia for our children and the future generation and must open the doors for development.
We cannot afford to leave matters to chance and to men alone, “heaven helps those who help themselves”. Hardworking women of this country have waited far too long for mainstream politicians entrusted to address the things that matter to you; family, home, work and the economy, garden inputs, access to credit and market outlets for your garden produce. Over the years, you have lobbied government to pass bills that could bring meaningful change to the lives of the women and men of this country. You have marched to protest against rape and domestic violence and other rights violations and you have campaigned for more inclusiveness for women in decision making. Women can no longer remain as onlookers and cheer leaders.
We can, together with the youth and men of this country, work to bring about unprecedented development in record time. Your personal concerns could become political if you use your voices and votes to be heard. You have a choice, you have a voice. The personal can be political and women and the economy are directly related. Where one is flourishing so is the other.
Your children will face new challenges. But each of you can help prepare for that future by standing for justice, equality and women’s rights at home and at the workplaces.
Human rights framework and perspective will continue to be central in our approach to issues as we strive to restore the dignity and integrity of all Gambians and all those who chose to live in the Gambia. We commit ourselves to democracy and good governance as we address the emerging issues of the state in order for the Gambia to gain its rightful position in the world.
We cannot afford to be isolated in the current inter connected world of development initiatives. All sovereign citizens of the Gambia, living abroad, would be free, as a matter of right to return or visit the country their motherland which belongs to us all.
We would resume the political dialogue process with the European Union to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms and improve the Gambia’s foreign and bi-lateral relations and engage constructively with the international community to advance the Gambia’s development initiatives.
In this election of 2016, the country has a choice. The APRC regime has brought the country to the brink of economic collapse and dysfunctional social sectors. The secular and republican status of the constitution is under threat. Youth unemployment and inflation are soaring and the level of human rights abuse is alarming. That path led to the Gambia’s descent from the unenviable status of ‘least developed country’ to our current pitiful status of ‘heavily indebted poor country’, a status that will change with me as the president of the Gambia.
When the Government of the First Republic was unconstitutionally toppled in a military coup in 1994, Yaya Jammeh, then a young army officer said he wanted to end self perpetuation in power and condemned what he called the flamboyant lifestyle of the former regime. But in a twist of irony he then changed the constitution and removed term limits without consulting the people, perpetuating himself in power for twenty odd years. His lifestyle is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross with planes, and a multi-million dollar home. He has broken faith with the people. It is time for him to go.
Together we can change that direction towards the path of economic growth, creating wealth, creating jobs for the youth, rewarding the hard work of Gambians across the country, upholding the fundamental rights and freedom of Gambians, the rule of law, and the promotion of women’s rights, and the national interest and security of the Gambia.
If elected, I intend to serve only one term, during which period, I would work with all the existing parties and Gambians ready and willing to steer the Gambia towards a direction that will enable it respond to the needs and aspirations of the people.
I reject the call to turn Gambia into an Islamic State intended to bring division and set us against each other. I will uphold and reinforce the secular republican status of the constitution, where every Gambian will be free to practice his or her religion in accordance with their faith; in a Gambia where democracy, good governance and human rights will prevail, bringing the smile back to the face of the people of the smiling coast.
Dr. Isatou Touray
Independent Candidate 2016
NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS FRAMEWORK
The Constitution provides for us the fundamental law which affirms our commitment to freedom, justice, probity and accountability. It also affirms the principle that all powers emanate from the sovereign will of the people.
The fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in this Constitution, will ensure for all time respect for the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to ethnic considerations, gender, language or religion. In acknowledging our fundamental rights we also affirm our duties and responsibilities as citizens of this Country.
Source: The Constitution of The Republic of The Gambia
The Gambian Constitution under Chapter IV guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizenry, and The Gambia is a signatory to the international standards that equally guarantees human and peoples’ rights such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Unlawful arrests and detentions take place routinely in the Gambia.
Even with the existence of constitutional provisions that promote and protect basic freedoms,there is a considerable variance between The Gambia's national laws and the government's policies and practices. The Gambia is a signatory to the CEDAW, MAPUTO Protocol and other conventions that promote women’s rights. However, the policies and practices under the APRC regime are, in numerous instances not in tandem with the provisions of these protocols, thus leaving women vulnerable.
I will respect the constitution which is the supreme law of the Gambia as well as the treaties and protocols that the country has committed itself to.
The human rights situation and fundamental freedom
Human Rights Situation
The fundamental challenge facing the Gambia is the total personalization of the state by the Head of State. While the Constitution of the Gambia guarantees the separation of powers and the rule of law, the Executive branch of the Government, consistently disregards constitutional processes and procedures in almost all aspects of state administration.
Through the total control of state institutions and processes, the inbuilt constitutional checks and balances between the various arms of government, have been rendered largely ineffective, giving the executive sweeping powers, which are often abused. The executive order has replaced law.
Similarly, the attitude of the government towards the treaty bodies and UN special procedures in fulfilling its obligation is appalling. The government has submitted overdue reports to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2012 and the Committee on the Rights of the Child 2011. However, it failed to submit other overdue reports, including to the Human Rights Committee, despite the commitments made at the review in 2010. Invitations to the Special Procedure mandate holders have not been extended or their requests for visits accepted, including the request going back to 2006 from the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the request in 2012 from the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions. The human rights issues have lingered on, thus leaving the country in a situation of uncertainty leading to a mass exodus of able bodied and well trained individuals whose contributions would make a big difference in advancing development for The Gambia.
The Office of the Ombudsman was created in 1997 "to democratize and harmonize the relationship between government and citizens." The Public Service Commission was set up by a constitutional provision "to maintain an effective and efficient civil service by ensuring that persons who meet the criteria for jobs are recruited, trained, and disciplined in an open, fair and impartial manner." However, these bodies along with the judiciary, lack institutional independence, resulting in, ineffectiveness and the loss of public confidence in their ability to carry out their work.
I will submit to the National Assembly for ratification all outstanding international human rights instruments signed by The Gambia, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (add date signed); the Convention on the Status of Refugees (add date signed); the Convention Against Torture (signed 23 October 1985), and its Optional Protocol, and all other international instruments that promote human rights, and also propose implementing legislation for adoption by the National Assembly .
In pursuit of justice for all, I willensure that investigations are undertaken of all cases of arbitrary arrest, detention, enforced disappearance, torture and murder of journalists, human rights defenders, political actors, security personnel, and common citizens as well as cases of arson against media houses and bring those responsible to justice.
I will create a national human rights institution in line with the Paris Principles. As a matter of urgency and to restore respect for human rights, my government will prepare and submit overdue periodic reports to the treaty monitoring bodies and issue a standing invitation to the special procedures and facilitate a visit by the Special Rapporteurs of freedom of expression; torture; extrajudicial executions; and on judges and lawyers.
I will restore the autonomy of the Public Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission and the National Human Rights Commission to enable these national bodies carry out their mandated functions effectively, with full independence from the Executive, and ensure that the National Human Rights Commission is established and operates according to the Paris Principles.
I will recognize economic, social and cultural rights as part of the human rights of all Gambians by ensuring that the right to housing, food, health and a clean environment are included among the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and made justiceable.
Figure 1: Isatou Free at last after a lengthy court case on alleged theft by the state
I am committed to the advancement of democracy and promotion of human rights in an environment in which the dignity and integrity of the person is sacrosanct; a society in which people make informed choices to advance their interest in the context of broader development goals and objectives of the Gambia. I believe that a constitution as a supreme law that advances and promotes the best interest of the people is a non-negotiable fundamental guiding principle. To that effect I will review the supreme law of the country in line with internationally accepted standards.
If elected president, I pledge to serve for only one term, during which period, major reforms would be initiated in the area of political participation, human rights, the economy and gender equality.
Among the immediate reforms would be;
To introduce a presidential term limit of two terms of 5 years to promote democracy and effective participation of the citizenry.
I will remove the age barrier that prevents citizens of the Gambia above the age of sixty five years from seeking elective office as president.
I will re-introduce the second round voting system, to ensure that, no party governs Gambia without the expressed approval of at least 51% of the electorate.
I will encourage political pluralism by removing all barriers to political participation including the restrictive fees that political parties and those seeking elective office are required to pay to be registered and voted for.
In responding to the international standards of respect for the dignity of the person I would resume the discussion on the moratorium on executions and urge the National Assembly to act on Section 18(3) of the 1997 constitution which calls upon it to ‘review the desirability or otherwise of the total abolition of the death penalty in The Gambia’, and encourage it to finally abolish the death penalty and so bring The Gambia in line with the growing international consensus on this matter. I will abrogate the presidential power to dissolve the National Assembly and plug all constitutional loopholes that allow the president to fire elected members of the National Assembly, and terminate the services of serving judges.
I would also repeal the local Government Act 2007 to ensure that our local government administration is purely based on democratically elected councils as opposed to the present hybrid system of presidential appointments and popular election with no autonomy whatsoever.
Seyfolu, i.e. District Chiefs, will be elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. The terms of office of local council chairmen/women and mayors will be limited to 2 terms and would be elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
The local government administration will be decentralized so that the municipal and Area Councils will have greater control on the resources they generate with the autonomy that will allow them to lead their regions in the best interest of their communities,
Alkalolu, i.e. Village Heads will be selected by village elders, taking into account traditional lines of inheritance. In the absence of a consensus, the issue shall be subject to election.
Stronger constitutional provisions on a truly Independent Electoral Commission will be introduced and entrenched.
I will ensure the full participation of the disenfranchised Gambian Diaspora in the political process by giving them the right to vote from wherever they are.
The ineffectiveness and the lack of independence of the judicial system is a grave concern. Judges and magistrates are targeted for dismissal or criminal prosecution when their judgments are perceived as a threat to the current regime.
The fact that judges serve at the will of the President has undermined trust in their impartiality particularly in politically-sensitive cases.
Acquittals in cases where the President has a pronounced interest are extremely rare.
Judges lack security of tenure and appear to act in accordance with executive dictates for fear of having their contracts unilaterally and abruptly terminated by the President. Even collection of research materials to advance the Gambia with regards to policy and praxis is prosecuted.Officials are arrested for providing vital information to improve the functions of institutions.
As a consequence fewer Gambians seek redress through the courts in matters where the President and/or State are deemed to have an interest.
The lack of tenure of judges, backlog of cases in the courts, and excessive sentences in politically-related cases have marred public confidence in the judiciary.
The absence of thorough and independent investigations into allegations of human rights abuses such as unlawful arrests and detentions: enforced disappearances; torture; unfair trials; and extrajudicial killings, has served to further erode public trust in the justice system.
For the proper administration of justice I will;
Restore the independence of the Judiciary.
Uphold and follow constitutional guidelines in the hiring and firing of judges to ensure impartiality and transparency.
Guarantee the tenure of judges and allow the rule of law to prevail in all affairs of the state and society.
Ensure that judicial officers can perform their professional duties without intimidation, arrest, harassment or interference.
Not encourage interference by public officials, in the judicial process, such as issuing statements that may be detrimental to ongoing cases.
Refrain from making statements on on-going court cases especially those involving senior government officials, senior military officers and opposition members.
Freedom of Expression
The State continues to stifle freedom of expression through new legislation and crackdown on dissent. The Criminal Code (Amendment) Act 2013 and the Information and Communication (Amendment) Act 2013 introduced a 15-year jail term and a fine of about US$100,000 for any individual convicted of using the internet to spread “false news or make derogatory statements, incite dissatisfaction, or instigate violence” against the government or public officials. The penalties apply to individuals living in the country and abroad.
This has resulted in self-censorship by journalists. Radio stations, traditionally the greatest source of information for the populace - restrict themselves to music and sports programming out of fear of being shut down by the government for venturing into matters deemed political in nature without due process, thus, depriving the non-literate population their only source of information on all development issues in the local languages.
Media outlets are subject to closure without warning or due process when they are critical of the government.
In addition, human rights defenders and members of the public who file complaints to government authorities face severe penalties if the information they provide is considered by the government as false or simply, inconvenient. As a result the public are now extremely reluctant to speak out about any misconduct or inaction by government officials.
My government will:
Promote freedom of expression. I will carry out comprehensive reform of the media laws and repeal all draconian laws, especially the criminal defamation, false news and sedition provisions to comply with the provisions of our constitution and the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa.
Grant access to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression / Access to Information in Africa to The Gambia and allow dialogue between the Special Rapporteur and all stakeholders.
Cooperate with international and regional human rights bodies to guarantee the protection of freedom of expression and human rights generally in The Gambia.
Similarly, I woulddecriminalize media offences by repealing these sections in the Criminal Code in protection of freedom of expression and the media:
Section 47 and 48 on the prohibition of the importation of publications
Section 51 and 52 on sedition
Section 60 on the defamation of ‘foreign princes’ and ambassadors
Section 114 on freedom of speech and association
Section 167 on discrimination
Section 178 on criminal defamation
Section 181A on false news publication and broadcasting
I will review:
The Newspaper Act 2004 to bring it in line with Chapter 4 of the Gambia Constitution and Article 19 of both the UDHR and ICCPR by drastically reducing the exorbitant fee for operating a newspaper.
The Information and Communications Act 2009 to bring it in line with fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights standards and in particular reverse the amendments relating to the use of the internet.
Media houses and journalists in the Gambia continue to face challenges in freedom of expression. Also the journalists in the state and private media are limited and constrained by censorship to critically engage in raising consciousness on national issues and concern. It is urgent to replace criminal defamation laws with civil laws that ensure greater compliance with international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right.
There is need to respect the constitutional guarantee on freedom of expression.
The laws infringing freedom of expression of media practitioners as guaranteed in the Gambian Constitution will be reviewed. Steps shall be taken to promote free and independent media and to ensure the safety of journalists.
Access to information and respect for the freedom of expression, association and the press, will be promoted, and all necessary steps will be taken to protect everyone individually or in association with others against any violence, retaliation, adverse discrimination or pressure as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of freedom of expression according to international human rights standards.
The current obnoxious and repressive media bill will be reviewed and amended.
I will facilitate the development of a specific normative framework to guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression, as well as the security of journalists, members of the opposition and civil society.
Immediately cease the harassment and intimidation of independent journalists and media institutions and to proceed to a reform of the legislation applicable to ensure full respect of freedom of expression.
Amend the legislation that restricts press freedom and freedom of expression.
Promote gender representation in the decision making structures in the media and build capacity of media institutions to address gender sensitive reporting and representation in state and independent media.
The national radio hardly covers the entire country satisfactorily while the television is national only in name, serving mostly as a propaganda outlet of the APRC. I would make the radio and television truly national in coverage and content.
I would create the enabling environment to encourage companies/entrepreneurs to apply for licenses to operate an independent T.V station taking into consideration the best interest of the nation, and.
Introduce sign language as a standard operating procedure for the nation’s TV station i.e. GRTS
The state media will have civic education as an integral program on both radio and television.
All contending parties in the Gambia will be given equal opportunities for adequate access to the state media.
The prison conditions are appalling. Overcrowding, lack of adequate medical facilities and attention, inadequate food provision, and facilities which are not fit for purpose have resulted in a high death rate in Gambian prisons. Health conditions are very poor. The medical facilities in the central prison are under-resourced.
There is reportedly a high number of inmates with mental health problems who do not receive specialist attention.
There is a frequent denial of basic visitation rights. Independent organizations are denied access to prisons and detention centers to monitor whether they meet minimum international standards.
Prisoners are not provided with skills they can rely on when they are serving their prison sentences thus leaving them with no option of a likely repeat of the crimes/offences for their survival resulting in repeated jail terms.
There is no opportunity for rehabilitation. Prison officials carry out their custodial functions with virtually no regard for reform as a means of reducing recidivism. The government has also not taken any steps, even though the Gambian Constitution requires it, to hold a referendum on the desirability or otherwise of the abolition of the death penalty.
There is no effective complaints mechanism in place for prisoners to raise concerns about their conditions. The Gambia accepted four recommendations on improving prison conditions and allowing access for independent organizations but have not implemented the recommendations. Reports by human rights organizationsindicate that prison conditions have worsened since the 2010 review including a rise in mortality rates, inadequate access to healthcare, and frequent denial of basic visitation rights. Independent organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Amnesty International which monitor international standards, are still denied access to prisons and detention centers in The Gambia.
I would pursue programs to ameliorate the prison conditions and allow independent organizations access to all detention centres and respond to any recommendations emanating from such visits.
I would reform the Prison Act to ensure that prisoners have adequate visitation rights and
Address prison overcrowding by pardoning all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, improve the prison conditions and institute measures to ensure that prisoners get access to medicines and qualified doctors.
Also I would improve both the quality and quantity of food available to prisoners and transfer prisoners with mental health issues to appropriate medical facilities for treatment.
I would introduce an apprenticeship programme for inmates while serving their sentences to acquire life skills they can depend on for rehabilitation in the larger society
The economy is tottering on the brink of collapse, with low economic growth and resurgence inflation. There is a cost of living crisis created by the combination of low wages and high inflation. The economy under the APRC is not creating jobs that we need to raise living standards. The Gambia’s financial position is considerably weak because of poor policy implementation, particularly as regards excessive and wasteful spending in the non-productive sectors of the economy, relative to revenue mobilization and dwindling external budgetary support.
Economic growth was only 0.5 percent in 2014 and projections for 2015 and beyond are not encouraging. Two decades on, the regime continues to rely on unpredictable rainfall patterns for agricultural production and food security, but a more worrying risk factor to economic growth and price stability is the government’s continued policy inconsistencies, sending wrong signals to both Gambian and foreign investors.
In recent years, in the face of exchange rate pressures mostly attributable to inappropriate domestic economic management, the government developed the habit of direct interventions, through exchange rate directives, fixing the exchange rate. It thereby abandoned the market based policy that has significantly benefited the country since its introduction in 1986.
Such direct interventions on the part of government, drives foreign investors away and reduces the level of remittances by Gambians in the Diaspora. These inconsistent policies will continue to weigh heavily on the fiscal and external sector viability of the country.
Even though the global fuel prices have declined significantly, and many countries have passed the lower prices to benefit consumers through lower pump-price, the Gambia has notbeen able to make any significant reduction due to the poor management of government finances with huge budget shortfalls.
Furthermore, the key state-owned enterprises, particularly NAWEC, GAMTEL and the Gambia Groundnut Cooperation (GGC), faced such serious financial distress, due to accumulated financial losses, that they had to be bailed out by the Gambian tax payer. In addition, most of the state enterprises continued to accumulate huge tax arrears to the Gambia Revenue Authority.
These lapses in policy implementation and the failure of APRC government to implement the needed reform programme, led to the cancellation of therecent IMF programme that would have brought significant donor support to the country.
Meanwhile, due to the excessive domestic borrowing on the part of the government in power, the Gambia continues to suffer unsustainable public debt burden of 44.2 milliondalasi in 2016 with high interest rates that discourage private sector investment in the productive sectors. As a result, too many small and medium sized businesses cannot get the finance they need to invest and grow.
In the year to end December 2015, the Governor of the Central Bank has disclosed that the domestic debt stood at D22.6 billion, 59.1 per cent of GDP compared to 18.6 billion, 53.0 per cent of GDP in 2014.
The government has usurped the functions of the Central Bank of the Gambia through official meddling in the foreign exchange regime. Consequently, the foreign reserve cover has declined sharply.
Similarly, the political dialogue process that would usher the Gambia towards a better development process has not been successful and effectively respected due to the president’s refusal to respect the issues it addresses for the common good of the Gambian people.
To address these challenges we would take the following short, medium and long term measures;
A short term priority plan will be needed to restore soundness in government finances through revenue and expenditure management and restoration of relations with development partners.
I will improve the management of our limited resources. I will minimize cost and as an immediate step I will eliminate all wasteful spending and redirect focus on the productive sectors of the economy.
Expenditure will immediately shift away from non-productive spending to more productive sectors such as agricultural capital spending and the protected sectors of health and education. We will tackle the root cause of the deficit by building a more productive economy and encouraging a long term investment culture in the private and public sectors and supporting small businesses in their growth.
In the medium term, a well-designed programme for the strengthening of state owned enterprises would be put in place to make them more autonomous and competitive as well as less dependent on government subventions and bailouts.
The Central Bank’s independence would be strengthened and measures taken to deepen the financial markets, and enhance their role in mobilizing savings for the investment needs of the private sector, so as to make monetary policy more effective and the financial market more efficient.
We would maintain a liberalized trade and flexible exchange rate regime in order to continue benefitting from high levels of foreign direct investment and remittances.
In the medium to long run, the subsistence rain fed agriculture would be modernized, by promoting investment in irrigation schemes, mechanization and processing of agricultural produce on public private partnership basis. We will create certainty for investors by taking a long term approach to investment decisions.
For orderly implementation of the needed economic reconstruction and reform programme, we would restore our relations with our traditional development partners.
In the long run more export diversification is needed to reduce the over dependence of the economy on groundnuts and tourism.
The object of our monetary policy will be to reduce inflation while encouraging investment in the economy. The independence and capacity of the central bank to manage and direct the monetary policy of the economy shall be enhanced.
The regulation and supervision of the financial services sector shall be strengthened to ensure its efficient and prudent operation and maximize protection for depositors’ funds.
A full liberal exchange rate policy will be maintained. Nonetheless, we will ensure that no one abuses the system to the detriment of a sound economy.
The current tax policies and laws have given rise to a lot of uncertainties and de-motivation for investment and private sector growth. This shall be reviewed and eventually rationalized to provide the highest level of motivation for private sector growth and investments. In particular I will propose a fairer burden of taxation across tax payers based on our comparative advantage and international best practice.
Financial Accountability and reforms
The Gambia is a highly indebted poor country, (HIPC). It cannot service all the debt accrued in its name under the current dispensation. It will have to put in place financial mechanisms to save the financial institutions and win the confidence of investors and also be able to respond to the development needs of the country.
To that effect I would, negotiate the situation of the debt that Gambia has accrued over the years and engage in debt relief discussion with bilateral partners. Public accountability will be strengthened under my administration. I will investigate the level of corruption and put in place a robust system for recovering stolen funds, and strengthen the Central Bank and allied banks.
Private Sector Development
The private sector is key to the growth of the country. My economic policy will be based on a free market principle, aimed at securing maximum economic growth through private sector growth initiatives and development, and better management of state assets and corporations. I will focus on investment to stimulate economic growth and the creation of a more productive, high skilled and comparative wage economy. Therefore the private sector will be encouraged to create job opportunities, bring in innovations for sustainability and in response to the emerging trends to boost the sector.
The high level of operational fees and charges on hotels and businesses has become a disincentive to development in these areas and shall be reviewed.
The economy will be managed by creating a sound economic environment using prudent fiscal and monetary policies that will aim to achieve the following:
Contribute to the growth of the economy
Encourage corporate social responsibility
Create job opportunities through public and private partnerships
Support research and development
Encourage and protect local entrepreneurs through initiatives that lower the cost of doing business and create a conducive legal environment for them to thrive and grow big.
Review the tax laws of the country with a view to enhance revenue generation while promoting sustainability of enterprise development that will create job opportunities for the young people.
Adopt responsible procedures of spending to protect fundamental public services for the advancement of our society.
Encourage Gambians in the Diaspora to set up business ventures and create job opportunities in the Gambia with sustainable tax incentives.
The agricultural sector is crucial to the Gambian economy, employing over two-thirds of the labour force, and accounts for a third of the country’s GDP. About 91 percent of the extremely poor and 72 percent of the poor in The Gambia arein the agricultural sector. Over60 percent of the population falls below the overall poverty line and 40 percent below the food poverty line. Agriculture particularly the groundnut subsector is one of the principal foreign exchange earner for the country.
Figure 2 A farmer carting his harvest: This is not what farmers deserve
Any programme, aiming to raise the living standards of Gambians and reducing poverty should strengthen and develop this sector as it is crucial to the Gambian economy.
Yet, just like most other sectors, this important sector suffered immense setbacks and decline under the APRC regime, due to wrong and misplaced policies. In 2014, it registered a decline of 7.2 percent, leading to a GDP decline of 20 percent.
Agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, machinery, and improved varieties of seed and other modern implements are not available to many farmers.
Tractors and farm implements are politicised at the expense of the poor farmers particularly women. Women are promised farm inputs which end up in presidential farmlands where their labour is exploited.
My government would improve agriculture by creating subsidies to motivate farmers to produce, post harvest technologies will be provided and cooperatives will be created to facilitate for farmers’ agricultural needs.
The National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) will be strengthened to engage in research that will improve agricultural production across the country.
Agricultural inputs will be made available to farmers to increase their yields on their own farmlands. We will open up market outlets for the sale of agricultural produce and negotiate better prices for their agricultural produce.
The fisheries sector will be given high priority and coastal areas will be encouraged to engage in this sector.
Marketing of their produce will be a priority for my government.
Agricultural services will be improved by strengthening the capacity of agricultural extension workers. Mixed farming centres will be replicated for agricultural demonstration to increase the farming techniques for farmers across the country. Horticulture, aqua-culture and animal husbandry will be encouraged and women will be given all the opportunity to achieve their objectives.
The Gambia currently has an uneasy relationship with its development partners such as the European Union (EU), The Commonwealth and other countries. The relationship between the Gambia and Senegal is strained.
I will work to improve Gambia’s foreign and bi-lateral relations. I will respect the policy agreements to promote effective political dialogue to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms.
4.1 BILATERAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
4.1.1 Regional, sub-regional and international policy
The Gambia is part of the whole within a broader context and naturally part of the sub-regional co-operation to promote peace, stability and development. The existing regional and sub-regional organizations such as ECOWAS, OMVG provide a valuable framework for the realization of greater integration and development within the sub-region. This will be strengthened.
The Gambia will maintain a stable, respectable and friendly relation with its immediate neighbor, Senegal. This will be based on mutual interest and respect for our territorial co-existence of the people of both countries to advance sustainable development, peace and respect for each other.
My government will promote Gambian interest with the international organizations such as The Commonwealth, IOC, UN, GATT, World Bank, European Union and IMF as well as other regional bodies in the continent I will seek readmission to the Commonwealth.
4.1.2 Partnership with donors
The Gambia has over the years benefited significantly from closer cooperation with our development partners including assistance in the form of grants and soft loans in pursuit of its development objectives. Without such assistance, the country would have been a lot poorer than it is today.
We shall rebuild our relationship with our development partners within the context of a renewed national commitment to serving the interest of the Gambian people without compromising our sovereignty. We shall work towards empowering the country to regain its respect among the Committee of Nations.
THE SOCIAL SECTOR
High on my agenda is the social sector, for its importance in promoting the development and well-being of Gambians cannot be overemphasised. It is the sector that will respond to the needs of the population. Education and health, form the protected sectors of our programme, so that the budget rises in line with inflation. Great efforts will be made to invest in them for all to benefit from the services and opportunities it offers to the general public.
Health care will be a protected sector in my government. The quality of care delivered by well trained, skilled and motivated staff at all levels will be assured.
All the major health centers will be provided with the necessary equipment, and laboratories, necessary for the diagnosis, management and care of patients, and adequate training will be provided for staff to handle and operate them.
We will increase tax on tobacco and all revenue so generated would be channeled towards the expansion and strengthening of health centers for a more accessible, affordable and better quality health service delivery.
I will train and retain more midwives, support, up-grade and integrate the traditional birth attendants into the health care delivery system, for an improved maternity service that ensures safer deliveries in maternity wards and reduce maternal and infant mortality.
The medical school will be strengthened and supported to attain a world class level and a review of conditions of service of all health workers will be undertaken.
Communities will have more say in decisions that affect their health through their community health committees and the community health officers trained from among themselves.
The health centers, so strengthened, equipped and staffed will ease the burden of referrals on the equally well resourced and staffed main hospitals to be, so as to leave more time for the proper, adequate and timely management of those in need of hospital care. The training and continuous education of health workers will be accorded due attention.
I will give mental health the same priority as physical health. When mental health problems are not spotted early, people can deteriorate and need more intensive support.
A greater emphasis on public health is essential both to improve outcomes and to make health care sustainable, in the light of an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases like diabetics and cardiovascular diseases.
We will maintain a high level of preparedness against possible outbreaks of Ebola, Lassa and Zika fever.
Environmental sanitation is a key priority for my government. I will create opportunities for the medical and health sector and the National Environment Agency to ensure the sustainable protection of the environment with proper and appropriate waste disposal mechanisms to promote environmental health.
“HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION FOR ALL”
A good education is vital to achieving personal fulfillment and economic prosperity. While we have witnessed an increasing willingness and readiness for enrolment on the part of parents and pupils, including girls’ education, the quality of education has attained a worrying level of decline. The majority of high school graduates, lacking both in academic grades and technical education are often ill equipped for the demands of the job market. Quality education is made by excellent teachers. We want a high quality education for all our children, making sure there are adequate resources for learning.
The promise of free university education made by the APRC regime will lead to a further decline in the quality. Quality university education anywhere cannot be totally free. I would subsidise the cost of quality education so that children from less privilege backgrounds will be able to attain the highest possible level of training to achieve their aspirations.
I will invest in training teachers to the highest level in response to our educational needs.
Every teacher will be trained to attain a qualified teacher status. The training of teachers will be reviewed so that trainees spend equal time in the college and in the field. There will be a review of teachers’ salaries and promotion avenues, so that more teachers will be motivated to remain in the profession.
I will add quality to education for all our children, raise teaching standards, and increase funding for research in the tertiary institutions, so that the youth will acquire knowledge that will equip them for work. I will create more career paths to success for the youth by establishing a system of technical education and training and the guarantee of an apprenticeship for every school leaver with the required grades.
The university will be improved to compete favorably with other tertiary institutions in the world. I will facilitate partnership and twinning programmes with other universities. Deserving Gambians of great academic achievements and experience will be encouraged to come and make their contributions to improve this sector. I will encourage academic freedom, intellectual liberty and progressive thinking.
With the availability of resources I will accord equal emphasis to all subject matters to thrive equally and not see any subject matter as a threat to power. The administration of the university will be based on principles of merit and standards. My government will give great priority to research.
The Gambia is vulnerable to the effects of global warming through anthropogenic destruction of the environment. We have witnessed in the recent years varying patterns of draught and flooding with devastating consequences to the economy and livelihood of communities.
Unregulated sand mining along the coastal areas not only mars the landscape but adversely affects the livelihood of communities and exposes them to the real threat of flooding through sea level rise in these times of global warming.
Effects of sand mining on the coastal fringes of the Gambia: Let us guarantee a better environment and future for our children
The environment is littered with debris and waste that cause a sore to the eye with little or no wastes disposal systems to protect the people from the hazards of such waste.
Any extraction of natural resources will be subject to environmental impact assessments and sustainability studies.
Forestry and environment will be a central programme for any sustainable development for my government.
Programmes that will improve the environment will be implemented across the country. The forests and other landscapes will be enhanced and protected for all.
Reserved land will be identified for the preservation of the fauna and flora across the country.
The monthly cleaning exercise that closes all business activities has been counterproductive, and will be discontinued.
Instead, the cleansing service units of the municipal and area councils will be equipped and mobilized to ensure proper and timely collection and disposal of refuse.
Awareness and sensitization programmes will be embarked upon to educate the public from littering the streets and surroundings, and sound environmental practices and habits will be encouraged advising against urinating in the streets, through the provision of public toilets and washrooms at strategic locations where public activities are concentrated.
My government will encourage and support the private sector in the area of recycling that could turn waste into profit while protecting the environment.
Holistic and intergenerational approaches to fight climate change are some of the viable options if we are to realize our developmental goals.
We would protect livelihoods and safeguard threatened lives, to secure a much stronger boost for a safer future for people and nature, for a Gambia where exploitation of the natural resources will be moderated in a sustainable manner .
We will capitalize on our chance to create the Gambia we want to live in and to secure a safer and healthier environment we need. In every region there will be a number of planned activities to create awareness on climate change, to mobilize support for a justifiable use of the environment to positively contribute to the emerging climate injustice already threatening our country,
We will encourage;
The establishment and sustainable management of community forest by local communities
The introduction of annual tree planting exercises across the country in fragile ecosystems.
Protection and sustainable use of forest resources where human beings will thrive in harmony with mother nature; while the ecosystem will be allowed to flourish for the equal sustenance of the fauna and flora of the Gambia.
Also, landscapes that protect the fauna and flora of the country will be protected from exploitation and culturally relevant conservation methods will be promoted for sustainability.
Awareness of the public will be raised about a healthy environment and the school system will be encouraged to educate the children about clean environment, proper waste disposal and management geared towards a safer environment.
Tourism is very important to the Gambian economy. It provides lots of jobs, income and foreign exchange which are desperately needed by the country.
Constraints in the tourism sector are identified in the spheres of policy formulation and implementation, capital investment, human resource endowment, existing and potential tourist markets and seasonality issues.
The challenges the sector is facing are;
Lack of a national carrier and poor connectivity to The Gambia as a tourist destination
High landing fees
The seasonality of Gambia’s tourism, and
The “Bumster” menace.
To respond to these challenges I would;
Support the relevant institutions and re-evaluate the Gambia’s Selling points and encourage more eco-responsible tourism.
Establish a national carrier to improve connectivity to the Gambia.
Support more home based tour operators and not rely solely on outside tour operators.
Introduce domestic tourism; e.g. encourage private companies to start a domestic flight operating within the country.
Revive Gambia River Transport.
Liaise with the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority to make the Gambia a hub of tourist destination by removing bottle necks such as very high landing fees.
Minimize the problems of bumsters by engaging them in some alternative productive ventures.
The most pernicious aspects of life under the APRC regime is the repression that seeps into women’s personal life and personal status.A large number of women are now de-facto household heads due to the arbitrary arrests, detention and dismissals of their husbands. Most households have lost their loved ones to the prisons and forced migration. As a result greater responsibilities and more burdens are falling on Gambian women. Similarly, single women face discrimination in different ways that restricts the achievement of their goals and aspirations.
Women remain drastically underrepresented in parliament, and at top diplomatic positions and negotiations. In the field of governance and decision making women are at the bottom of the ladder. The presence of women in parliament is dismally low. For example out of 54 parliamentarians there are only four women of whom one is nominated by the president. Women are underrepresented in the decision making positions at the local government level.
The dominance of men in parliament in some cases, results in refusal to pass laws that promote and protect women’s rights in the Gambia.
And in other cases proposed laws are so watered down that they are rendered ineffective. The underrepresentation of women and failure to include women in decision making positions is additional injustice and discrimination to them. Policies that do not take account of women’s strategic needs will not respond to their strategic interests. I would call for equalrepresentation of women in parliament and increase the number of women in diplomatic missions and peace negotiations along with men.
Despite having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other related conventions and protocols, women continue to face discrimination both in law and practice. Existing laws promoting women rights are not enforced, and women are not adequately represented in decision making at both local and national government levels. Women enjoy fewer opportunities for education and employment than men, . Thirty recommendations were made to The Gambia concerning women’s rights. The recommendations mostly related to eliminating discrimination against women, including through the domestic application of international law. Despite the government’s acceptance of many of these recommendations, actual implementation and progress remains minimal.
Maternal mortality is high, health facilities do not have the basic capacity needed to adequately investigate, diagnose and treat cervical and breast cancer which are common killers of women in the Gambia. Children are subjected to harmful traditional practices that affect their sexual and reproductive health rights. The effects of such practices lingered with them up to adulthood.
For the working women there is a dearth of opportunities for enhancing their chances to engage effectively as professionals and reaching to the highest level in their professions. Women face sexual harassment and abuse and their reproductive roles are not considered when they are recruited.
The productive role of women has not been given the right attention. Despite the fact that women contribute a lot to the care economy they are at best given less or basic opportunities that would hardly allow them to self-actualize.
As president I will continue to raise awareness on the effects of female genital mutilation, enforce the laws which prohibit this practice, as well as forced and early marriage.
Review and enforce the Domestic Violence and the Child Labour Acts,
Develop policies to give women access to quality healthcare by providing equipments for the early detection of cancer and other killer diseases. As a matter of policy every Gambian woman within the target group will undergo free screening for early detection and treatment of some of the killer diseases such as cancer of the cervix and breast.
Improve infant and maternal mortality by training more midwives for an improved maternity service that ensures safer deliveries in our maternity wards and improved immunisation coverage across the country.
Focus on developing programs to combat poverty, and create job opportunities for women particularly youth and devise and implement measures to guarantee security of employment for women.
Introduce quota system for representation of women in National Assembly, Municipal and Area Councils.
Apart from subsidizing fertilizer and other inputs, I will facilitate for women farmers to access tractors in each region to improve their rice and vegetable production. I will create marketing outlets and post harvest food processing micro cottage enterprises for women and men farmers.
Ensure that Village Development Committees have equal gender representation for the efficient and affective development of their communities.
Figure 3: The late Nyimansata talking to women about effective participation in leadership and decision making positions
The population of The Gambia is young with a median age of 18 years. About 45% is under 15 and nearly 50% are aged 0-18 years.
Gambian youths face various challenges as a result of poor policies that do not address and respond adequately to their needs and do not provide the opportunities to fulfil their aspirations. Many young people are unemployed and unskilled leaving them to loiter about in search of non-existing jobs. Those who are trained do not find the jobs, thus leaving them frustrated with no hope.
The poor economic policies of the APRC regime has resulted in the closure of existing job opportunities in the private sector as a result of unreasonably high taxes and ill-conceived decisions. Those who want to further their education do not have the sponsorship and deserving young people are sometimes marginalised because their parents are perceived to be with the opposition. In their efforts to advance themselves to university level young girls are sometimes vulnerable to abuse.
Similarly, the economic hardship and lack of employment have resulted in massive rural urban draft in search of non-existing jobs in the urban areas while many more young people embark on perilous journeys across the desert and the Mediterranean to Europe. in search of greener pastures. A lot of rural communities are desolate as the young people are on a daily basis leaving the country.
Issues affecting the young people are politicised and they are lured into giving their allegiance to the status quo where they are encouraged to engage in unwholesome activities that may jeopardise their future.
My government will respond to the situation of the young people by providing them with scholarships to pursue their educational ambition. I would encourage them to engage in life-skills that will create job opportunities on a sustainable basis.
Recreational facilities will be provided to respond to their needs and encourage them to invest their energy in developing their potentials to the maximum level. In each region I would enhance existing structures and build new ones where necessary to respond to the sporting activities of the young people.
Armed and Allied Forces
The security forces have distinct functions and roles, and each will focus on their mandate. I would build a respectful image for the security forces in the country as a whole. It must be realized that the security forces are part of the larger society and are engaged in a noble profession. It is important to note that one day they will be civilians and need to survive as citizens and would need the relevant skills to engage constructively with development of the nation.
The role of our Armed Forces is to defend the sovereignty of the country and maintain peace and stability for all Gambians and those in the territory. I will facilitate and encourage a well trained and disciplined force that would respect the human rights and civil liberties of all Gambians and adhere to the constitution and other laws of the republic.
I would provide improved professional military and other training facilities, to allow the army to play useful roles in the development process especially in the areas of road and bridge constructions, gully erosion control and forest management, during peace time.
The Police and other security forces will be strengthened to deal with crime and drug trafficking, which has become a national embarrassment. We will provide life-skills and support services to enable them engage constructively within their communities after they retire from active service. The security forces will be able to participate in the broader international peace keeping forces to contribute their quota in bringing peace and stability to the world.
The capacity of the security and allied forces will be strengthened and Rights and gender Education will be introduced into their training curriculum to build their capacity as their work has to deal with promoting and protecting the citizenry as well as defend the country and promote peace.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATION
The conditions of the roads and communication facilities in The Gambia today are deplorable and unacceptable. The road networks have remained all the time largely seasonal. The main feeder roads in many districts across the country are un-motorable and cause fatal accidents for the rural people. During my travels in the rural communities I have heard and witnessed a lot of fatal accidents as a result of the bad roads. I would facilitate accessible roads for the districts’ main roads to facilitate effective road communication.
The bridges that connect roads will be given priority. The rural road infrastructure will be given high priority to address the deplorable road networks within and between regions such as KerewanBadala-Sandu Highway, Basse-Fatoto Highway linking Fulladu, Tumana- Kantora, and Nawdeh- Misira Highway to Sami in Sandu District. Similarly, the streets in Banjul, the capital city are in a deplorable state. I will improve the capital city and give it the status it deserves. I will introduce integrated urban infrastructural development schemes. The Area councils will be encouraged to invest the tax payers’ money into the building of markets, car parks, taps and feeder roads and other infrastructure to improve the lives of the people.
I would facilitate accessible and portable water facilities for rural isolated communities.
The Gambia needs better transport system, I will engage the Gambia Transport Association to discuss their challenges and with them forge plans towards a better transport system.
Our government will engage in river transport to generate revenue and attract the tourists to the beautiful landscape along the length and breadth of the Gambia.
The lived realities of many Gambians in rural and semi–urban settlements: Good roads are essential for sustainable development
The International road networks that facilitate cross border trade and economic activities are not efficiently utilized and effective due to the poor and difficult terrains thus affecting our revenue generation. I will work closely with Senegal to ameliorate the situation based on our mutual interest to facilitate the movement of goods and services across countries.
The provision of constant supply of electricity is essential for the economy. Faced with serious financial distress and accumulated losses and in some cases poor management, NAWEC has been unable to provide steady and uninterrupted power supply, necessary for the smooth running of the economy.
We will design a programme for the strengthening of the financial position of NAWEC, to make it more autonomous and competitive as well as less dependent on government subventions and bailouts. We would direct NAWEC to come up with a plan of action for the collection of its debt beginning with government institutions, which are among the biggest debtors
We would look into the possibility of privatizing the National Water and Electricity Company - NAWEC in the long run if things don’t improve under the existing management, and to explore the possibility of harnessing the abundant sun and wind as greener alternative sources of energy and to ensure electricity supply to all Gambian villages. To that effect my government will forge collaboration with the relevant institution to achieve this objective.
Between 65,000 to 90,000 Gambians are resident in the Diaspora, accounting for about 5 % of our population. Most of them left the Gambia on account of threats, and in some instances arrests and judicial harassment by the Jammeh Regime. Our skilled emigration rate at 63 percent, ranks second in Africa and among the top 20 in the world. The financial contributions of this segment of our population estimated at over $90 million dollars accounts for about 10 % of our Gross Domestic Product. Yet despite these contributions, the Diaspora has been alienated in nation building. The Diaspora has been denied its constitutional right to vote in all elections in the country so far. It is against this backdrop that it is to engage this vital part of our population to effect positive change; I will create opportunities for Gambian professionals, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens to create a better Gambia, a democratic Gambia because all Gambians can and should develop the country.
Under my government the right to vote as sovereign citizens of the Gambia will be extended to the Gambians in the Diaspora.
TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION TO BUILD CONFIDENCE AND FORGE AHEAD: INTEGRITY AND ETHICS
The objective is to create the enabling environment that will facilitate reconciliation among Gambians to express their feelings, heal, forgive and reach consensus on forgiving themselves and each other and open a new chapter for a healthy and peaceful co-existence on how to forge ahead
To that effect the following panels will be constituted with a clear mandate to engage in the process of reforms.
Panel on land
Panel on justice and impunity
A panel on the reform of the constitution and other laws
Effective involvement of people in decisions that affects their lives