By MUHAMMED S. BAH
The first ever woman to aspire for the highest office of the land on Friday 2 September at the Kairaba Beach hotel Jama Hall in Kololi announced her intention to contest against the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, in the forthcoming presidential election.
Dr Touray was unveiled as a candidate in a well-attended ceremony graced by members of civil society organizations and political parties including the UDP and NCP. UDP candidate for the forthcoming Presidential Elections, Adama Barrow was in attendance.
During the occasion, the attendees were given brooms and the Gambian Flag to display support for the candidate.
The unveiling of the candidate was preceded by speeches, drama play by young people, singing and dancing, and presentations of videos of Gambians in the diaspora who endorsed the candidacy of Dr. Touray.
Dr. Dembo Touray, (Dr. Isatou Touray’s husband) dilated on the good virtues of Dr. Touray as a wife, mother and a genuine Gambian. Another speaker was Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang, a political activist, who also showed solidarity to Dr. Touray and called on the opposition parties to rally behind one candidate against the APRC during the Presidential election in order to bring an effective change.
She also narrated her interest of bringing the opposition parties together for the past years, which she said is very key to effecting a change of government.
“The reason why we need a change is because the APRC regime has failed Gambians by presiding over a country that is witnessing economic hardship, unlawful arrests and detentions and youth unemployment.
She added, “I urge all Gambians to fully participate in the elections to vote the APRC regime out”.
Amie Bojang Sissoho, a colleague of Dr. Touray at GAMCOTRAP chaired the occasion.
During her introductory remark, she noted that the emblem of the female independent candidate is a broom.
“The broom is made up of a bundle of sticks strapped together, each stick represents one Gambian or group of Gambians still possessed by individuality, but bound together in the spirit of unity and focused on one goal-to bring change, progress- with all the others in the broom that is the Gambia” She explained.
She further gave a brief history of Dr. Touray, explaining that the latter was born on the 17th March 1955 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and brought up in 44 Grant Street in Banjul.
Her father, she added, is a native of Kaur. According to her, Dr. Touray attended crab Island Secondary Technical School and graduated with a secondary four certificate. She added that Dr Touray was a good athlete during her school days.
Dr. Touray was also said to be a teacher who later proceeded to Usman Dan Fodio University in Nigeria then later to the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague Netherlands where she got her Master’s Degree in Development Studies with a specialization in Women and Development.
She also got Doctorate Degree at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. She also holds a chain of professional certificates and that she is a laureate of many institutions.
Dr. Touray also worked with the Management Development Institute and was the one who initiated the Gender and Development Unit at the Management Development Institute.
Dr. Touray stated that if elected, she will serve only 5 years as a President.
“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 I have 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” She stated.
She further said that she is alerted by a deep sense of concern for the Gambia, and is committed to the country’s advancement, unfettered by repression, abuse, impunity and persecution. She said she has observed the current dispensation over the years.
Dr. Touray also pointed out the unlawful arrest and detention of the UDP leader and his supporters who were sentenced to jail for exercising their constitutional rights.
She noted that some of these people died in the custody of state security agents, such as Ebrima Solo Sandeng and Ebrima Solo Kurumah.
“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 and 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” She underscored.
Dr. Touray said “I am committed if elected 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”.
Dr. Touray also stated that true democracy does not mean only voting, but it requires active participation of each and every citizen.
“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 assists, but more than anything else, a new Gambia of economic prosperity, freedom, rule of law, peace and stability,” She dilated.
Dr. Touray also stated that the youths of this country are frustrated and their hopes dashed.
“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, quality education, good health care and decent living, they desert and move to the wild Mediterranean where a lot of them lose their lives” She asserted.
Dr. Touray also rejected the notion that votes cannot defeat the APRC, and advised people to do away with that concept.
“Your votes can defeat the APRC, and are your weapons to effect the change you desire”. She remarked.
Dr. Isatou noted that her Government if elected will motivate and encourage Gambian scholars and academics abroad to return and contribute their quota.
“We would 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 doors for development” She noted.
“Human right 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” she remarked.
Talking about the secularism of the state, Dr. Touray said the status of the constitution is under threat, noting that Gambia is a secular state and not an Islamic Republic.
“When the government of the First Republic was unconstitutionally toppled in a military coup in 1994, Yahya Jammeh, then young officer said he wanted to end self-perpetuating rule in power and condemned what he called the flamboyant lifestyle of the former regime. But a twist of irony he then changed the constitution and removed term limits without consulting the people, perpetuating himself in power for twenty years” She remarked.
She said Jammeh’s lifestyle is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross planes and a multimillion dollar home, adding that he has broken faith with people and it is time for him to go.
She said she rejects to turn Gambia as an Islamic State intended to bring division and set Gambians against each other.
In conclusion Dr. Touray said “I reject the call to turn the 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 practise his or her religion in accordance with their faith; in a Gambia where democracy, good governance and human rights will prevail, I will bring back to the face of the people of the smiling coast”.