Dr. Isatou Touray said on Saturday she will free jailed opposition leader Ousainou Darboe with his executive, whiles decrying the West African nation’s economic and social justice conditions.
Touray has been using her campaign to remind Gambians of the ‘wrongful’ jailing of the veteran politician, who with more than 50 other supporters of his party were arrested in April and May for taking part in protests demanding electoral reform and the release of a handful of other protesters, including a senior opposition member who was tortured to death in custody.
“I will free Ousainou Darboe and his entire executive the day after I am voted into office,” Touray said to a rousing cheer and applause. “They were only exercising their rights as citizens and these people are good sons and daughters of our nation.”
Touray held her first public event at a stadium in Brikama Daruhairu and by standards of presidential campaigns in The Gambia, she was speaking to an impressively large crowd, mostly youths and women.
Her campaign is setting higher standards with her team breaking barriers by live streaming her events online via YouTube and Facebook Live.
With many youths and women in attendance, Touray seized the opportunity to address what directly affects them, urging women as unity forces in their homes to refuse the use of tribal politics and religious bigotry to divide the country.
“We women are the ones who marry to men from different ethnicities and religions. We bring into this world children of different tribes and religions and that is why we must continue to be forces of unity and not allow anyone to use tribalism and religious bigotry to divide us for their own political interest,” she said.
The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh in June received the wrath of the international community after threatening genocide against the Mandinka ethnic group, swearing to “kill them like ants.” It prompted the UN Special Advisor on Genocide to issue a warning and calling Mr. Jammeh’s remarks deplorable.
The West African nation became the world’s newest Islamic republic, after Jammeh, 51, made the unanimous decision in what has been deprecated as the marginalization of the country’s Christian population. During the month of Ramadan, drumming was banned with police enforcing the ban even on worshippers in churches and local authorities attempted to shut down a Christian cemetery at the entrance of the capital, Banjul.
Most women in rural Gambia depend on their small horticultural businesses to make ends meet and support their family. Touray said the small businesses that the women run are not growing and are now forced to work in the gardens of other people, who only give them a small portion of proceeds or goods as their pay.
Gambia is nearly an insolvent nation. Its domestic debt is equal to its GDP and the IMF approved an emergency financial assistance under the Rapid Credit Facility last year for USD $10.8 million to enable the government to meet its urgent balance of payment and fiscal needs.
The Gambia is facing budgetary constraints after its main development partner the EU withheld more than €30 million over the country’s rights situation. The government of President Yahya Jammeh continues to be one of Africa’s most repressive regime and the EU last month threatened to place targeted sanctions on The Gambia if conditions continue to deteriorate.
Touray blamed The Gambia’s international isolation on Jammeh’s eccentric behavior and has called for better relations with neighboring Senegal with a new approach to strengthening international cooperation to attract investors and high paying jobs for the many unemployed youths.
“So many of our youths have chosen to die in the back way to Europe because our government has failed them. Before, when you graduate from high school you automatically get a job but today, even people will undergrad degrees are unable to get a job,” said Touray.
The Gambia has the third highest number of immigrants arriving by boat to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration. Many of the country’s youths risk being killed, kidnapped for ransom, dying at sea or spending months in inhumane prison conditions to reach Europe.
At least 75 percent of Gambian asylum applications in Europe were denied. Though the country is faced with one of the worst human rights issues in Africa, many immigrants from The Gambia are considered economic migrants.
Dr. Touray is banking on opposition support to win the country’s December polls. She is the West African nation’s first female presidential contender and is taking part in unity talks with opposition groups in hopes to secure a coalition to challenge and end President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule.
She praised the opposition for their decades-long fight for change and said she has declared her candidacy as an independent to foster unity.
As Touray prepares herself for the crucial task of presidency, her campaign said she has been tested and ready and has their sleeves rolled up whiles praising her steady judgment of Gambian issues as she calls for justice, peace and reconciliation.
Gambians they say face a choice between a horrible present built on Jammeh’s imaginary visions and a future to reach for, that will ensure a Gambia where all citizens can thrive.