Meet the GDF Eleven (11) who may have saved a Nation!

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Meet the GDF Eleven (11) who may have saved a Nation!

Many Gambians are very well deserving of commendations for a historic fight that defeated one of Africa’s most ruthless dictators in our generation. The biggest credit without a doubt goes to Gambians who paid the ultimate prize for the freedom and dignity of a nation. The nation will forever be indebted to these brave men and women and their families who gave their lives willingly or otherwise standing up to a monstrous regime and its torturous and killing machine. These people just in comparison are Gambia’s own Dr. Martin Lurther King, the Nelson Mandela, the Steve Biko, Mother Theresa, the Rosa park etc of Africa. They shall forever be remembered for a sacrifice beyond anything imaginable. A historic museum and monuments forever displaying their heroism must be established and erected in their honor.

Gambian voters who bravely brace through the threat and intimidation to cast decisive votes against impunity after 22 years of degradation, torture and human rights violations too deserve the medal of honor that is the pride of Africa. They manifested the true believe that power truly belongs to the people! The political leaders without a doubt who painstakingly put their political ambitions on hold for the national interest deserve commendation as well for putting the nation first.  In every fight, especially as magnitude as liberating a nation and its people; there are silence heroes behind the scenes. These are the spouses, parents and families of the freedom fighters who had to endure the pain and fear of losing love ones to a brutal regime. They too must be celebrated for their prayers and sleepless nights in being there for those who brace the woods to fight the bitter fight…

For over two decades noble sons and daughters of the Gambia refused to abandon their country to a brutal dictator who seized power and drove the best and brightest away to get his way. Nobility and patriotism however wasn’t a gift, it was earned through pure birth to a land of humility and bravely. Many Gambians in the Diaspora refused to give up, but continued to organized to find a solution to the nation’s predicament. There were disappointments and bitter fights for almost two decades; but those who refused to succumb to failure as an alternative continued to explore a path to political freedom. This is what led to the birth of Gambia Democracy Fund (GDF) – a group of Gambians with different backgrounds, political orientation and personalities.

After so many meetings, conferences and trial and errors with so many people contributing in one way or another, some new like-minded citizens bonded by a common destiny and sense of urgency formed a closed net. They recognized that the fight against dictatorship would never be won without the necessary resources to fight against the dictator who had the nation’s resources at this disposal. A new strategy emerged to mobilize resources and dislodge the dictator using his own political game. This group of Eleven Gambians faced adversity of trust and skepticism due to history of Diaspora organizations. They would have to plough through the distrust and name calling infested in the Diaspora to earn the confidence of the people. History was on their side as change never come without the bruises to show for the fight. Backed by Gambia’s strongest activists and citizens’ will to support an organize path, Gambia Democracy Fund in collaboration with thousands of Gambians in the Diaspora found a niche to mobilize resources. This mobilization was a success largely thanks to Gambians willing to put their money where their mouths were; the path was clear and the battle grounds were drawn leading to the historic defeat of Africa’s most brutal tyrant.

It is therefore important to bring out the personalities behind GDF to the public months after the sweet victory and with the people behind the group remaining so humbled and silence about their sacrifices and efforts. I feel obliged to celebrate each and every one of these people who have not taken a single credit for what may have been the last-ditch effort to save a nation. I here in introduce to you the people behind GDF as up until now many Gambians may not know who were the brains behind GDF. For disclosure purposes, the author has not sought permission to write about these people but felt obliged to do so.  Who are the GDF Eleven?

Meet Baba Colley a native of Kiang, who has been the Adhoc Secretary General of the Gambia Democracy Fund. A young Gambian of quiet type but highly intellectual who is a strategic thinker and a pragmatic individual. Baba has never been in the public eyes during the struggle. He has always been a behind the scenes individual who deeply cares about the Gambia and what entails in the country. Baba is a strong believer in equality and justice and he had always believed that when organized Gambians can achieve amazing things. Baba’s leadership and crucial role in GDF was to get things real and as practical as possible. He was a strong voice of dissent on anything sensational or hasty decisions made with emotions. Thank you Baba!

Meet Lamin Jatta a native of Kombo Brikama who was the chair of the political liaison committee and the link between GDF and the Coalition Parties. Lamin is a Project Manager and since GDF was an Adhoc project, Jatta’s expertise were of immense resource. Lamin is a well measured individual who wants everything done through a clear and well spelled out process. He doesn’t rush to decision but takes his time to think and calculate the risks and consistency of every decision. Every dime that was sent to the coalition passed through Lamin who ensured that the funds were not only received but documented accordingly for accountability. Though a PPP leaning in partisan politics, Lamin put the Gambia first second and last. Never once those he put partisan interest over national interest. His role in GDF is greatly appreciated.

Meet Tukulor Sey, a native of Brikamand one of the most dynamic Gambian women of our times. Tukulor is an emotional being; but make no mistake, her emotions demonstrate her humanity and compassion for doing the right thing. Tukulor was the leader of the Media Committee and was largely responsible for all press releases, the social media war that was Yahya Jammeh’s nightmare. When Tukulor hits the twitter handles and face book, Yahya’s Demons hide under the table and run for cover. Tukulor is a rare gen who speaks and acts from the heart. When she was emotional about something you better get out of the way. A strong voice who was a money machine and is one of the most effective fundraisers in the Diaspora.  Tukulor’s strength in mobilizing resources and bringing people to raise funds was the success behind GDF’s Fundraising machine. What a strong woman Gambia is lucky to have. Thank you Tukulor.

Meet Pata PJ Saidykah from Jarra, probably one of the youngest if not the youngest in GDF. Pata was a voice of reason with fresh ideas and candor. He had a strong voice and was determined to see GDF successful in bringing the change we have in Gambia today. Surprisingly, Pata had no political leaning and never shown any political affiliation during GDF’s efforts to free Gambia from political oppression. Pata too was part of the media group and was instrumental in sending out effective communications with clear and concise messages to the public. He cared for transparency and the reputation of the group. He openly and strongly defended the course of GDF and was not afraid to challenge anyone out there who either misunderstood or deliberately attempted to distort the very purpose of GDF. Many has contributed immensely towards the success of GDF.

Meet Lamin Tunkara from Badibu, another dynamic Gambian who loves the Gambia and have strong moral conviction in doing the right thing. Tunkara is a no-nonsense man who will say it as he sees it. He was and is still one of the signatories of the finances of GDF. Lamin has been a strong pillar of the struggle against impunity in Gambia and was highly committed to dislodging the dictator. His quest for transparency and accountability is unmatched. Tunkara was we fondly call him, was another emotional member of GDF but his emotions are rightfully in agreement with what he truly believes in. Lamin is a practical person who gets things done and when he promises he delivers. His integrity and eye for details are unmatched. GDF would not be successful without people like Lamin. He too never manifested any political leaning in his role in GDF. He is as honest and neutral as they come. For him Gambia is first, second and last.

Meet Omar Ann – Another native of Brikama. Omar is the moral voice of GDF; he speaks with high sense of morality, honesty and integrity. A peace maker who calms the tension whenever things are heated. Omar is also responsible for GDF Finances and his quest for accountability and transparency is an admirable character. A leader in many ways, Omar served on the fundraising committee. He represented GDF in many media outlets and his honesty and integrity help cement GDF’s integrity and public trust. Because of his high sense of moral character and integrity Omar was also mindful of conflict of interest and would abstain from voting for the most part where a decision or vote may include his mom. A longtime member of the struggle who would give up his life to free Gambia. Omar Ann tremendous respect for others is contagious and as a result in earned the respect of every member of GDF. A citizen of distinguished character.

Meet Kejau Touray; a native of Niamina Kudang and former Lt Colonel of the Gambia National Army. Kejau is the only European member of GDF and has been one of the most instrumental members of the group. Kejau is a IT professional with some legal background who often counsels the group on matters that may have legal implications. A strong voice with high intellectual IQ Kejau looks at things from different angles. Though he too has a political leaning, he never demonstrates once partisan thought in GDF. He puts Gambia first, second and last and is a great patriot who always advocated for inclusiveness. Kejau is the brain behind GDF’s website and was a member of the Political Liaison committee responsible for working with the Coalition. Being the only member of GDF in Europe Kejau had to deal with time differences but he was always there to attend meetings and contribute his time, his medium and resources towards the success of GDF. A great citizen.

Meet Juka Ceesay, a native of Serekunda and also one of the youngest and most brilliant young women and leader the Gambia has in the struggle. Juka is a business woman with high sense of urgency and focus on delivering results. She serves on the fundraising committee and is another effective fundraiser who knows how to set goals and deliver on time. Juka is another voice of reason on the team and was very much the one who kept GDF focus on task and delivery. Her strong voice, honesty and integrity is not to be messed with. Juka is highly respectable and was a driving force behind GDF’s Success. Her detail orientation and sharp memory will not let anything slide attended. She kept the group on tasks that were not completed and Juka would not take no for an answer. She is a pleasure to work with and she speaks her mind and asks relevant questions.

Meet Momodu B. Krubally, a native of Basse and one of the strongest leaders of GDF. Krubally does not only subscribe to the ideals of an organize group, but he believes in the power of social and political movements. Krubally is a member of the Media and fundraising group and was one of the fiercest defenders of GDF. His quest for accountability, transparency and ingenuity in raising funds was second to none. Krubally is the pioneer for the GDF T-shirt printing idea which brought GDF additional funding to the Telethon. He speaks with clarify and his knowledge of the political landscape in Gambia helped GDF focus on delivering resources to the coalition. Armed with high sense of business etiquette and moral integrity, Krubally was highly focus on keeping track through spreadsheets of expenses and donations to GDF. His record keeping is second to none.  Thank you Krubally for your leadership

Meet Saul Mbenga, a native of Bakoteh, who is one the most senior member of GDF. If Tukulor was the aunty of GDF, Saul Mbenga is the uncle. The most experience member of the struggle, Saul’s voice was a breath of fresh air. Highly patience and wealth of experience and knowledge of the struggle, Saul was instrumental in helping facilitate communication and resources needed to effectively deliver GDF’s Agenda. Saul served as a moral voice who often redirected the group into thinking big and more strategic. He had a calming voice who injects sense of nationalism to whatever GDF was doing. Saul has respect for everyone and works patiently in delivering results. He was one of the most optimistic members of the group who will not let the group slide into chaos even in the most heated of debates. Saul was also a member of the Political Liaison group which was instrumental in helping deliver resources to the coalition. Saul will go down in history as one of the best the struggle has ever had. Great leadership Saul.

Last but not the least meet Demba Baldeh a native of Jarra and a member of the media in the struggle against impunity and author of this article. Demba’s role was simple; to compliment the efforts of members of GDF. He served as a member of the fundraising committee in the group and mainly help chair meetings and asked relevant questions for transparency and accountability. A strong believer in the power to mobilize and organize, Demba was one of the strong defenders of GDF’s process and ideals. He often defended GDF against unnecessary criticism from perceived skeptics who never took the time to understand what GDF was out to do.

These are the people behind the Fundraising instrument of Gambia Democracy Fund which may have saved a nation from political ruins. Obviously, GDF couldn’t have done it alone and credit must be accorded to each and every Gambian who put in resources and time to make this a successful story. One of the most remarkable things about the type A personalities in GDF is the fact that none of these people appear to take any compliment for the efforts they have put into the new Gambia. For the first time in the history of the Gambia contributions worth millions of Dalasis were mobilized from the Gambian Diaspora through GDF. The story of GDF cannot be written without complementing the numerous online newspapers and radios who took time to publish and help with hours of fundraising on the airwaves. While GDF folks silence behind the scenes this author thought it was pertinent for Gambians to know and recognize the role and contribution these group of Eleven Gambians played in the new political change in Gambia. For disclosure purposes, the author did not seem any permission from members of the group to publish this story… Any inconvenience is deeply regretted and hope putting names and faces on the GDF success story would be appreciated for posterity. The descriptions of the GDF Eleven are the opinion of the author in his experience and interaction of the group.

By Demba Baldeh – Member of the GDF. For comments and or rejoinder please contact the author at dbaldeh@gmail.com

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