Below is the statement by the leader of United Democratic Party (UDP), Gambia’s main opposition leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe on the occasion of Eid-ul-fitr.
Fellow citizens and friends of The Gambia, as Muslims in the country and those around the world celebrate Eidul Fitr today, I send you sincere greetings and profound appreciation on my humble behalf and that of my compatriots languishing in illegal detention as hostages of an unjust and cruel regime.
As a routine tradition being the leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), I have over the years been dedicatedly sending out EID messages to you my fellow citizens in the comfort of my family, friends and loved ones. This year however, for circumstances beyond me but for which I have no regrets over, I am conditioned to send you EID greetings from the dungeons of my prison cell.
The past 30 days of the Holy month of Ramadan has been an immense source of divine fulfillment both for me and the rest of my compatriots who endured tests and challenges as we went through an important commandment of the Muslim faith. First we were denied access to the Holy Quran, the reading of which in the just concluded Holy month bestows great reward. Then our captors up-scaled the toughen prison regime by denying us access to the mosque making it impossible to take part in congressional prayers.
In the later part of Ramadan, we were also denied homemade food contrary to prison rules and regulations.
However, notwithstanding all these injustices my compatriots and I have endured as well as the rest of our youth supporters who are being incarcerated for gracing our court cases, we still remain resolute and committed in our firm resolve that The Gambia as a country deserves better.
The past three months have offered me in particular, a profound opportunity to live and come to terms with the tragedy of state sanctioned lawlessness where many young people are still languishing in jail. Some have spent years in remand on trumped-up charges. Others continue to spend more than necessary, their precocious youthful years under an offensive, exploitative prison system not knowing when their cases will be heard.
These are what I called the forgotten youthful resources of our country. I urge that while you go about celebrating this important day to also remember that a section of our society….your brothers and your sisters are wasting in Mile II Prisons. The alleged crime for most of them, is at worst, a misdemeanor.
Indeed we have fulfilled an important part of our pledge to Allah, our Creator to keep fast. Despite our challenging condition, we have prayed for the progress and prosperity of The Gambia. We prayed for our hero, Ebrima Solo Sanding for a peaceful, eternal rest and for Allah to reward him the highest Janna. I urge you also to continue to pray for him and the rest of our departed souls.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my two lovely wives for amassing unshakable faith in this trying time. You continue to be a great source of inspiration to the rest of the family. You have proven to be worthy role models standing firm and tall in the face of unbridle tyranny and harassment. I am happy and grateful to have you in my life.
For my compatriots enduring prison life with me, I want to assure you of my continued comradery until we finally defeat this brutal dictatorship that has become a bane on the conscience of good Gambians. I am particularly grateful to Mr Femi Peters for his commitment to “project Gambia.” Being Christian, Uncle Femi as we fondly called him, has been showing compassion towards his Muslim compatriots in prison during the entire Holy month of Ramadan. He is a true embodiment of what Gambians are known for…..a people of love and care that transcend religious and tribal affiliations.
I would like to thank the executive of the UDP under the leadership of Aja Yam Secka, the deputy party leader and Hon Dembo Bojang, the National President of the Party. Together with the rest of the executive and party supporters, you have steered the affair of the UDP party in a manner that only deserves praise and commendation. You have proved that the UDP can weather any condition even in the absence of key party leaders.
For the diaspora both supporters and non-supporters of the UDP, be rest assured of my profound gratitude to you for all your support in raising the profile of our unjust incarceration and persecution. We are aware of your every efforts including briefing sessions with the international community, your congressmen and women, your members of parliament and your petitions as well as your advocacies on the online radios and other important platforms.
On behalf of my compatriots, I want to deeply thank you for your support. You have risen in solidarity to vindicate the basic principle that we the Gambian people categorically reject dictatorship and tyranny and will insist on getting the freedom and democracy worthy of our people.
I also thank the international community for standing shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed people of The Gambia. We acknowledge with great sense of humility your numerous protest diplomatic notes to The Gambia government and your total rejection of the coercive and cosmetic democratic system in the Gambia.
We thank all of you for standing up and do your part to help this critical battle for the very soul and direction of our country. Together we stand as a diverse but indivisible people where our patience, endurance and faith continue to be tested by the machinations and barbarism of a regime shamelessly determined to abuse our collective rights.
With your continuous help fellow Gambians and friends of The Gambia, I can assure you that the moral rectitude of our cause will by the grace of God help us reclaim our country and with it our dignity which the dictator has trampled on for too long. I urge all citizens to be steadfast, law abiding and fully engaged in this journey to make our Gambia free, democratic and safe for all its citizens.
EID Mubarak to you all.
Lawyer Ousainu Darbo
Party Leader and Secretary General
United Democratic Party – The Gambia