By Yusef Taylor @FlexDan_YT
2017 started very promisingly for UKGambia, the first quarter whizzed by with the euphoria of President Adama Barrow’s Inauguration and first Independence Day Celebration post-Jammeh. Gambians across the Diaspora were genuinely optimistic about the change of government. This was the year of change and UKGambia took full opportunity to participate in this historic moment as The Gambia rose from the ashes of tyranny. In our quest to promote a more inclusive and progressive Gambia we supported the NotTooYoungToRun and GamWomenInParliament campaigns in the build-up to the April National Assembly Elections.
In the Diaspora, our members continue to promote progressive policies such as the Gambia Diaspora Vote initiative and have organised series of meetings with National Assembly members from both countries to discuss the topics mentioned above, migration, visas and many others concerning Gambians in the Diaspora. Although UKGambia could have played a more active role, we continue to collaborate and donate money to sister civil society organisations this way we further other initiatives that promote health and good governance. Our members supported initiatives run by Ida Bass Kidney Foundation, Power of Freedom, NotTooYoungToRun, GamWomenInParliament, Global Hands and many more.
In light of the activities highlighted below its apparent that UKGambia has made an impact in the lives of people in the Diaspora and resident Gambians in 2017. We look forward to the public’s generous and invaluable support as we move our country forward together in 2018. It’s for this reason that we intend to celebrate our Independence Day in February 2018 to further the mission of the organisation #OneGambia.
First Quarter – Independence Post Jammeh & NAMs Elections
In the first quarter of the year, UKGambia hosted its star show of the year in February as Gambians celebrated its Independence Day and Inauguration of President Adama Barrow. In March our members collaborated to initiate the “Help Little Oumie Campaign”. Oumie is a little girl from the Gambia who had to live with a tube in her stomach that lead to serious infection. This was the only way she could eat after accidentally eating soap which has scarred her throat. We are proud to say that Oumie has undergone an operation and can now live a normal life for a girl her age. There are many people in a similar situation to Oumie who need urgent medical help and UKGambia is committed to assisting wherever they possibly can. This highlights the need for a more structured approach to assisting Gambians with such urgent needs.
Shadow Foreign Minister, MP Liz McInes
In March UKGambia organised a meeting with Liz McInes (Shadow Foreign Minister). The meeting focused on FGM, appropriate Female and Youth representation in The Gambian parliament and in Gambian Politics. The meeting agenda was to call on Parliament to set-up an “All-Party Gambia Committee” looking into ways for a speedy rebuild of credible democratic institutions in the Gambia.
The discussions touched on bilateral aid & investment opportunities within the country, gender issues and the promotion thereof, civic education programmes. The Honourable MP also raised UKGambia questions in Parliament and to seek the office of Hilary Benn, Stephen Timms, Tom Brake, Ann McLaughlin, all MPs and friends of UKGambia in setting up the process.
In April UKGambia promoted more inclusive and progressive politics in The Gambian by coaching candidates, donating funds, coaching and supporting youth and women to run in the National Assembly Elections. This saw a number of our members promote the #GamWomenInParliament and #NotTooYoungToRun campaigns. Here is a message of appreciation from an aspiring National Assembly candidate Maimuna Bah back in April. “I would like to thank UKGambia for their benevolence, they are true patriots and have the interest of the Gambia at heart. Despite the fact that I was not able to contest they still showed their support. I wish to thank you from the very bottom of my heart. On behalf of the female contestants, I extend my most sincere gratitude for your unflinching support. To the women candidates, good luck. May it be a victory for us and the nation at large?” We would like to thank all our members for devoting their time, effort and money towards such pertinent issues.
April 10 – During the Dictatorship, the April 10 Remembrance Day has always been an important date which saw UKGambia organise protests in the past. Unlike previous years when very few Gambians observed the day to demand Justice, this year Gambians came out to march including the Justice Minister and numerous victims.
As an organisation we issued a statement to show solidarity with the victims (over a dozen students gunned down by security apparatus) however, this continues to be a situation which needs to be resolved through the justice system. All in all, it could be regarded as a missed opportunity which UKGambia could have done more to highlight. We humbly request for all Gambians to prioritise ALL the victims of Yahya Jammeh to ensure justice is swiftly and properly administered.
Second & Third Quarter – Effective Collaboration
Our members continue to find new and interesting ways to support Gambians back home. At the UKGambia we believe that “Effective Collaboration is Key”. To demonstrate our continued belief in collaboration, in late April we sent some runners to the #RunForAfrica initiative organised by our sister organisation Global Hands. In June our members helped to organise an informal meeting with Banjul South NAM, Hon. Touma Njie Bachilly in London. In August two of our members ran 10 kilometers and raised over £700 for free medical supplies for our sister organisation, Ida Bass Kidney Foundation who works with the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital.
One of the aims of UKGambia is to advocate for Enfranchisement of Gambians in the Diaspora. To promote this UKGambia has issued a draft report looking at the feasibility of Diaspora/ External Voting. The report looks at how other African countries have implemented external voting, the key political stakeholders required to implement it and much more. Co-Author of the report, Yusef Taylor has been working with other people in the diaspora to promote the Diaspora Vote Facebook page which contains a number videos introducing external voting and explaining the different mechanisms available for external voting.
We would like to thank Sulayman Ben Suwareh for taking the initiative to hold positive discussions with the IEC Chairman which resulted in a petition for the IEC to present a program for Diaspora voting. We would also like to thank Kaw Baldeh, Pa Ous Cham, Luis Sambou and everyone who helped further this campaign through their tireless efforts. Yusef has also collaborated with the MSDG Project as a panelist on their Webinar on Elections in The Gambia.
Fourth Quarter – Engaging NAMs and Migration
In October UKGambia members based in Manchester helped organise a meeting with Serrekunda MP, Hon. Halifa Sallah. At the meeting Gainako’s Yusef Taylor pressed Hon. Halifa Sallah to declare his assets and he responded saying “I’m ashamed to declare my assets. But if you insist I will definitely be very willing to declare my assets.” In November our members in Manchester participated in a protest march from Manchester Piccadilly to the Libyan Consulate in Salford Quays to protest against the current slave trade crisis. UKGambia believes in holding public officials accountable and one way to do that is by organising our community in a town hall setting where questions from the public can be answered by community and political leaders.
More recently Yusef Taylor appeared on InterFace Gambia TV alongside Hon. Touma Njie to discuss the topic of Youth Migration in the wake of recent Libya slave trade crisis. We want to take this opportunity to thank all political leaders who have given UKGambia an audience. Activities at the start of the second half of the year tapered a little bit and it’s time to look at how the organisation can continue its great work into 2018. If the organisation can have a full year where it performs consistently throughout as it did in the first half of 2017, it will be a very successful year.
You can join UKGambia and support us by helping us raise funds for Health, pro-democracy campaigns, and many other charitable initiatives. Our website is www.ukgambia.org, to get in touch with us you can contact us on our Facebook Page UKGambia or email us at email@example.com. Primary contact persons are Yusef Taylor, Awa Bah, and Omar Kolley.
Naturally, the change of government has seen some Gambians return home and others rethink their focus in activism. We want to thank the tireless efforts of our departing Secretary Lamin Jammeh, who returned to The Gambia earlier this year. We want to extend our sincere gratitude to all Political actors who gave us an audience in 2017. During the transition period, the organisation has tried to redefine itself from mainly protesting activities into an organisation which can actively participate towards the development of a #NewGambia. The new Government has provided some opportunities to collaborate with Gambians in the Diaspora by traveling to the UK and the rest of the world and held meetings with the Diaspora Community.
We want to thank all our members and supporters who continue to donate their time and money to us and our sister organisations in 2017. We wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our sister organisations, some of which have donated to us and supported our activities. We have had the pleasure of networking and working with; Ida Bass Kidney Foundation, Global Hands Leicester, Badibunka Society UK, UK Jarra Association, Power of Freedom and many more organisations and look forward to working with more sister organisations in 2018. Our heartfelt thanks also go to all media houses who have supported us in one way or the other.