By Awa B. Bah & Muhammed S. Bah
The Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA), on Wednesday 3rd January 2018, launched the Gambia chapter of the organization at the Law Faculty in Kanifing, under the theme “With the masses nothing is impossible; With DUGA we march into the new Gambia with Rekindled Optimism”.
DUGA is an umbrella movement set up by Gambians in the Diaspora to unite Gambians in North America, Europe and Africa. The mission of the organization is to penetrate the core of Gambian society, sensitize and mobilize citizens to achieve the goal of true and sustainable democracy in the country, through organization, and unity. It could be recalled that the group once occupied the Gambian Embassy in Washington calling for the end to Jammeh’s dictatorship.
Sohna Sallah, Chairperson of DUGA commended Gambians and those in the diaspora for their courage and unity against former president Jammeh. The Gambia she said was able to win tyranny because of the collective sacrifice of the people. Ms. Sallah said DUGA is a civil society movement and not a political party; that they will continue to engage Government while urging them to listen to the concerns of the people who fought for the democratic liberation of the Gambia; that DUGA is committed and will continue to work in enlightening the people of the new Gambia. She called for collaboration saying that their doors are open to all Gambians, at home and abroad.
Representing Ousainou Mbenga, the outgoing Chairman DUGA, was Sophie Ceesay. She said the organisation was formed to advance the issues of women and youth in the struggle for democracy. She commended the Gambian people for their sacrifice in building the new Gambia. DUGA she said will continue to set the ball rolling in advancing democracy and the rule of law in the Gambia.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Aboubacarr Tambedou said he was moved when members of DUGA occupied the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC, calling it a big challenge; that the efforts of DUGA contributed in bringing the new Gambia and it must be recognized. The Justice Minister called on Gambians to lay a solid foundation in terms of democracy to get rid of bad governance, torture and rape among other human rights violations. He called for close collaboration with civil society as the Gambia has changed and it has changed for the better. Tambedou called on activists to consolidate activism with responsibility, saying there is no perfect democracy in the world; that activists should not compare the Gambia’s democracy with other advance democracies because it took those nations centuries to get to where they are today.
In his solidarity statement Alieu Bah, founding member of Occupy Westfield called on Government to recognize the efforts and roles played by activists and young people. He also advocated for Government to consider the demands and rights of the people who fought to liberate the Gambia from sinking.
Representing Government was the Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs, Adja Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang, who said she recognizes the important roles played by Gambian activists during the historic political impasses in 2016. Government she said is committed and will continue to pursue the rights and welfare of its people; that the present Government inherited a two month budget support. The struggle for the new Gambia she said has enlighten Gambians resulting to inclusiveness; that civil society organizations are the checks and balances of Government.
Pa Samba Jaw delivered the vote of thanks. The launching was well attended by ministers, the Speaker of the National Assembly, renowned Gambian activists and victims of the former regime.