Rights defender and independent presidential candidate Dr. Isatou Touray said the Jammeh administration is not listening to calls for economic reforms as Gambians continue to live in immense economic hardship.
The West African country’s domestic debt is already equal to it GDP.
Her campaign says the peanut exporting country’s economy, which is faced with high inflation is on the brink of collapse.
Touray said her administration will bring economic prosperity, create jobs, raise living standards and increase wages.
The Gambia has had a clouded economic outlook over the years due to recent policy slippages and excessive spending. Dwindling external support with aid cuts from the European Union, severing of ties with Taiwan and Iran and the death of Libyan leader Mommar Ghadaffi show external support heavily diminished.
President Jammeh abandoned the market based policy by directly interfering in the foreign exchange market and setting rate, putting further stress on the economy and leaving government parastatals in financial crisis.
Government institutions are being used to sponsor fanfares and the ruling party’s political campaigns. Opposition activists accused President Jammeh of using them as cash cows for his personal gain and to cover expensive travel costs and lifestyle of his family.
Touray said she plans on investing more in the productive base of the economy by avoiding “wasteful spending,” creating more jobs that would motivate the young generation of school leavers and job seekers toremain in the country and motivate and encourage Gambian scholars and academics abroad to return home.
Europe has since a sharp increase in the number of young Gambians reaching it shores by crossing the Mediterranean. The number of Gambian asylum seekers has increased more than 100%. Though at least 60% of them are seen as economic migrants, the Gambia faces some of the worst human rights situation in the world.
Human Rights Watch said forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and other human rights violations are persistent under the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a military coup in 1994 with the country’s secularism under threat.
Though the country said it is working on a human rights commission, many have already dismissed the commission as going to be ineffective as in Burundi.
Touray campaign said, the first female presidential candidate is committed to the advancement of democracy and promotion of human rights in an environment in which the dignity and integrity of the person is sacrosanct; a society in which people make informed choices to advance their interest in the context of broader development goals and objectives of The Gambia.
Touray in a speech last week said the human rights situation in the country is alarming and is affecting the economy.
The European Union suspended more than 30 million Euros of aid to The Gambia, U.S. suspended the country with South Sudan from the preferential AGOA trade agreement and excluded it from the Millennium Challenge Fund over its rights situation.
“Human rights 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,” Dr. Touray said.
President Yahya Jammeh accused former President Sir Dawda Jawara of living an ostentatious lifestyle and sending his family to study in universities in the United Kingdom. But Jammeh’s new challenger said the African strongman’s lifestyle is not only flamboyant and lavish, but gross with planes, luxury cars and a multi-million dollar home in Potomac Maryland.
Activists say Jammeh’s daughter attended Lehman Manhattan, a private school on Wall Street with tuition and incidental cost of nearly a hundred thousand dollars.
At least two opposition activists have died in custody this year, one of them tortured to death. President Jammeh has been accused of having no regard for Gambian lives after he said senior opposition member Solo Sandeng was not the only detainee to ever die in custody. Rightly so, the UN and rights groups said many detainees die under inhumane conditions in the country’s prison system.