By John Charles Njie, Chairperson of TANGO
Welcome Speech: National Multi-Stakeholder Conference on Next Steps for a New Constitution
Salutations and acknowledgements
When Gambians decided for change of leadership, we indeed voted out a leader but not him alone but the system that kept us enslaved under tyranny and promoted the violation of our rights as a people repeatedly. We, as a people were elated and expectant, hoping that not only have we ushered in a new leadership that would in the least meet our noble aspirations, but also a system that would NEVER AGAIN promote dictatorship. A system that will cause the SMILING COAST to thrive upon the solid foundation of democracy and good governance.
Our nation today, stands at a cross Road, we are waking up to the devastating impact of Covid 19 on our economy and lives, the increase crime and criminal activity, not only in low places, as there are many allegations of corruption of public officials, a truth Commission that has diligently sort to unearth truth buried for years and is set to present us with a report of its findings and recommendations to be implemented, the increase in poverty, epitomized by the number of beggars in our streets, high unemployment rates among the youth, not to mention the rising political tensions in this polarized political season.
In the face of this gloomy reality we must pause, take a deep breath and ask ourselves as Gambians, what indeed are our priorities? Are we on the right track? We have played the blame game, pointed fingers at each other, talked at each other. Maybe it is time to talk to each other. Stop pointing fingers, with mutual
respect and understanding we can achieve much more. Also, the realization that democracy is a messy and difficult process should help us be a little more patient. The concept of democracy is still misunderstood by many.
So having made significant progress in having a political consensus on most of the contentious issues identified by Political Party leaders and now reaching a deadlock on our Constitutional building process, TANGO and the TJWG deems it prudent and apt to organize this Stakeholder Conference on next steps for a
New Constitution, in a bid to have a national discourse and possible consensus for the advancement of the draft Constitution to the next stage.
I hear the questions in many minds asking; what is the point of talking about the constitution, it is dead and buried? Have we not already wasted over a hundred Million in this process? It’s too late? Let’s move on and so on. But not so because as Civil society we believe we can still
- Raise awareness at a National level on existing legal and organizational aspects to get the revised Draft Constitution adopted.
- Keep the discussion alive on the consensus built amongst Political Party Leaders during the Goodluck dialogue
- Possibly establish a National Coalition for the promotion of a new Constitution.
That’s why we are all here, if we the people defeated tyranny, we the people can resolve to have a new constitution. In this room and online, I am confident that we have what it takes to dialogue and agree on a path forward.
Yes, we are faced with all the highlighted challenges mentioned earlier, but let me hasten to say this is no time to be discouraged or give up on our dear Motherland, Gambia, but rather “the time to make real the promises of our Democracy”. So let us look beyond this dark tunnel to the light of a new Gambia, not only in word but in manifestation. A nation with a leadership sensitive and empathetic to the pain of its people. A smiling coast where politicians are servant leaders with a passion for change for the upliftment of the people. There is light at the end of the tunnel, fellow Gambians, we decided once, God intervened and change was made possible in a peaceful manner that shocked the entire world, we can decide again today, God will intervene again and we will have a new constitution.
So let’s talk, disagree to agree and see what happens. Take a deep breath, let’s talk, let’s just talk. All things are possible to those who believe. With these remarks, I welcome you all and once again thank you for coming.
John Charles Njie
Coordinator, Transitional Justice Working Group, TJWG