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Of course, that stance, one that dates back centuries in Chinese history, has largely been a fiction for decades. Since acquiring nuclear weapons in the 1960s and building an inter-continental ballistic missile capability that now includes submarines and land-based delivery systems and estimates exceeding more than 90 missiles capable of reaching the United States, the country has been a formidable global power for a long time.
Still, throughout the period since China first developed such capabilities, the country has maintained the stance that it did not have major international ambitions beyond serving its own economic growth. Quietly, however, it has been building its capacity in many areas including in terms of expanding its blue-water navy and building a substantial space programme.
However, as China’s economic interests have grown in far flung regions — today it is a top trading partner and investor in virtually every region of the world including the Middle East — it has begun to recognise the need to be able to protect those interests should the need arise.
In announcing the base, China sought to send a message that it was not about projecting force or Chinese influence. A foreign ministry spokesperson stated in a CNN report: “The completion and operation of the base will help China better fulfill its international obligations in conducting escorting missions and humanitarian assistance ... It will also help promote economic and social development in Djibouti." Meanwhile a state-run media outlet was more direct stating, “It is not about seeking to control the world.”
That said, the base gives China its first forward presence in the region. What is more, it comes during a week in which China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, made its first port of call outside of mainland China with a voyage to Hong Kong that sent several important regional messages. The ship sailed through the Straits of Taiwan sending a message to the Republic of China about its much larger neighbors increasing capabilities, it simultaneously offered a clear message about China’s growing ability to back-up its claims to territory in the South China Sea with force and it communicated Chinese strength to the people of Hong Kong with its visit. But the Liaoning sent a message about China’s growing global capabilities as well. Indeed, combined with the opening of the Djibouti base and with Chinese naval participation — also this week — in naval exercises in the Mediterranean it is clear that there has been a sea-change, both literal and figurative, both in China’s ability to project force and in the country’s willingness be much more forthright about its new role and possible intentions.
It is not news to the residents of the Middle East that China is playing a dramatically bigger role in the region. In the ten years between 2004 and 2014, trade between China and the Middle East has grown over six-fold according to the World Economic Forum. Saudi Arabia and Iran both sit on the board of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the institution created by China that opened its doors in 2016. And in crucial security issues from Syria to Iran to Pakistan, China has played a more influential role than in the past. Indeed, from the dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles to the Iran nuclear deal, China has been an important player in way that is new for the Middle East.
What is more, it is clear that initiatives like China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative do not simply have economic or cultural goals. China is seeking to strengthen ties to vital trading partners and sources of vital resources via every means possible — and that includes having the ability to protect those ties. While Djibouti base is China’s first such overseas site, it almost certainly will not be the last. In fact, China’s government has promised to build other such bases “when necessary.” An often discussed site for the next such base also has implications for the Middle East, given its location in Pakistan — a country the Chinese see as a vital ally both in counterbalancing India and in ensuring access to the energy resources of the Middle East.
In short, when assessing the potential list of foreign powers that are in a position to exert influence in the Middle East in the years ahead it is clear that while the US may be more reluctant militarily and less dependent on energy, its role may be assumed at least in part by China. That is not to say China will replicate America’s approaches. It certainly will not. It will be less adventurous and less inclined to project its values or political beliefs on regional partners. Rather it will be as it has been in the past, dependably guided by fairly narrow self-interests. The difference will be that should those interests be challenged, China will have the military as well as economic leverage to defend them.
The geopolitics of the Middle East will never be the same again.
* DAVID ROTHKOPF is CEO of The Rothkopf Group, a columnist for the Washington Post, a visiting professor at Columbia University, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This article previously appeared in The National.
On 26 June, the first day of Eid celebrations, a popular march that was organised in the town of Hoceima, northern Morocco, was brutally repressed. The people of the Rif region decided to organise the “Eid March” in order to demand the release of their sons and daughters imprisoned in the previous few weeks and to denounce the ongoing violence and intimidation that the state is using against their resistance through a wide campaign of jailing and kidnapping of their activists and leaders.
In fact, the authorities tightened their blockade of the region by closing the main roads leading to the town and it embarked on a general sweeping operation against citizens that were trying to reach Hoceima either by foot or through smaller non-paved roads and against those who were gathering in streets and squares in order to join the march. In spite of all of this, people from other neighbouring villages succeeded in organising huge solidarity marches in order to break the suffocating blockade.
The Moroccan ruling elites use all means of repression, imprisonment, kidnapping and deeply unjust policies against the activists of social movements in the Rif region as well as intimidation and harassment against the local populations in order to halt their protests which are advancing socio-economic demands. Moreover, these elites launched a vilification campaign in order to delegitimise and criminalise the popular movement that has expanded to other towns and parts of Morocco. These current protests and discontent are considered as a continuation of the popular mobilisations that the country witnessed in 2011, mobilisations led by the 20th February Movement in the context of the revolutionary process initiated by the Arab uprisings. This process is still alive and was reignited by the brutal murder of the fish vendor Mohsin Fikri, who was crushed in the most inhumane way in a garbage truck in October 2016. The people of the Rif demand that people responsible for this heinous murder be made accountable. They want to get to the whole truth around the assassination of five activists in very obscure circumstances in the context of the 20th Feb 2011 mobilisations, the cancellation of the decree that considers the Hoceima as a military region as well as other demands related to public amenities (schools, universities, hospitals, etc.) and infrastructure (roads) and employment for the youth.
The demands of dignity, freedom and social justice raised by the people of the Rif and other regions in Morocco have been the basis of popular and revolutionary uprisings that took place in several countries in our region leading to momentous changes, albeit with ups and downs, counter-revolutions and imperialist interventions. Our people are still fighting counter-revolution, imperialist domination, contempt, oppression, authoritarianism and the pillaging of our resources. In Tunisia, for example, the southern region of Tataouine has witnessed for a few months a significant protest movement and occupations in order to enforce the right of its citizens for decent jobs and their fair share of the rich natural resources (oil and gas) that lie under their feet.
These are all instances of the crisis caused by neoliberal policies imposed on us by international financial and trade nistitutions and imperialist centres, policies that are based on austerity measures, crippling public debt, the opening up of our economies to foreign capital allowing it to dominate the most lucrative sectors, non-progressive taxation in favour of the rich and multinationals, systematic corruption, land grabs, populations displacements and the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. These violent policies and practices are implemented by non-democratic and repressive regimes. As an example, Egyptian security services have harassed and arrested several activists who were opposed to the agreement entailing the sale of the Egyptian islands Tiran and Sanafir to the reactionary Saudi monarchy.
We, therefore, declare our full support for the struggles of the Rifians in Morocco, Tataouine in Tunisia and all the peoples of our region in their fight for a just social development that is based on the satisfaction of their basic needs as well as on a fair redistribution of wealth and resources. We also denounce all acts of violence and repression and we demand the release of all prisoners and detainees. We are determined to continue our support to and solidarity for efforts and endeavours of building a truly popular and radical democracy in our countries.
1- RAID ATTAC Association - Tunisia
2- Socialist Workers Party (PST) - Algeria
3- MANICH MSAMEH Campaign - Tunisia
4- SOCIALIST PARTY of Zambia - Zambia
5- AFRICAN SCHOOL CAPE VERDE – Cape Verde
6- ORDN NEIGER - Niger
7- TANZANIA SOCIALIST FORUM - Tanzania
8- ONE MILLION PEASANT WOMEN - Tunisia
9- REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT - Tunisia
10- DEUX HEURES POUR NOUS, DEUX HEURES POUR L'AFRIQUE - Burkina Faso
11- SOCIALIST FORUM OF GHANA - Ghana
12- ALGERIA SOLIDARITY CAMPAIGN (ASC) - Algeria
13- ATTAC MAROC – Member of the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) - Morocco
14- ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE NORTH AFRICA (EJNA) – North Africa
15- ISNED, NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR THE SUPPORT TO SOCIAL MOVEMENTS – Tunisia
16- POPULAR COMMITTEE FOR RESISTING SHALE GAS – Algeria
17- NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE UNEMPLOYED - Algeria
18- LIGUE OF LEFTIST WORKERS – Tunisia
19- AGRO-ECOLOGY AND GREEN ENVIRONMENT – Tunisia
20- The CURRENT OF El-MOUNADILA – Morocco
The festival which brought together over 400 participants including cultural artists, academics, community members, international and local Pan-Africanists, students and institutions from over 20 countries across the world, provided an ideal platform to review and critically re-assess urgent tasks indispensable to deepening the technical and intellectual skills needed for training the next cadre of progressive thinkers and practitioners required to promote Pan Africanism and accelerate the attainment of structural transformation demanded by peoples of Africa.
The theme “Global Africa 2063: Education for Reconstruction and Transformation” has therefore offered a springboard for further research into ways the eleven regions in the Global African Family and their respective institutions of higher learning and intellectuals could collaborate to facilitate the internationalization and realization of Agenda 2063 within the five (5) regions of continental Africa and the six (6) African regions overseas.
The festival had 46 sessions which were grouped into twelve parallel sessions over five conference days. These sessions reverberated with discussions on indigenous knowledge, reparations, African fractals, Pan Africanism, transformative education in Africa, and institutional collaboration across the African world, to name a few. There were plenary sessions which took place once each day before the first parallel sessions started. These sessions had panellists with diverse backgrounds that challenged forms of education and knowledge production which facilitate imperialism. Expectedly, the plenaries also explored how African centred education and knowledge production could shape the transformation agenda in Africa.
In the opening of the Festival on Monday 26 June 2017, the Keynote Speaker Professor Hillary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies, bemoaned the lack of collaboration on the part of African governments to support reparation claims. It was the contention of the renowned professor that, arguments about the complicity of some African chiefs in the condemned transatlantic slave trade cannot justify the indifference on the part of African heads of state regarding the call for reparative justice.
The film shows, drama performance, variety show and banquet joined the intellectual aspects of the Festival to showcase rich African culture, the drive towards unity, and the resurrection of “can do spirit” among conference participants.
The Accra Declaration of the Festival comprises the following core points:
Below is the summary of the final communique which came out of the 2nd Nkrumah Festival.
FINAL COMMUNIQUE (SUMMARY) OF THE SECOND KWAME NKRUMAH
PAN-AFRICAN INTELLECTUAL AND CULTURAL FESTIVAL
Institute of African Studies
University of Ghana
The 2nd Kwame Nkrumah Pan-African Intellectual & Cultural Festival was hosted under the auspices of the Kwame Nkrumah Chair in African Studies by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana from 25th June to 1st July 2017, under the theme “Global Africa 2063: Education for Reconstruction and Transformation”. Over 400 Delegates from over 20 countries were in attendance. The Conference set itself the following objectives:
In addressing the conference objectives, the participants agreed, inter-alia, as follows:
While few Canadians could find Zambia on a map, the Great White North has significant influence over the southern African nation.
A big beneficiary of internationally sponsored neoliberal reforms, a Vancouver firm is the largest foreign investor in the landlocked country of 16 million people.
First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has been embroiled in various ecological, labour and tax controversies in the copper rich nation over the past decade. At the end of last year, First Quantum was sued for $1.4 billion by Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH), a state entity with minority stakes in most of the country’s mining firms. The statement of claim against First Quantum listed improper borrowing and a massive tax liability.
In a politically charged move, President Edgar Lungu recently ordered ZCCM-IH to drop the case and seek an “amicable” out of court settlement with FQM. Social movements criticized the government for (again) caving to powerful mining interests exploiting the country’s natural resources. According to the organization War on Want, Zambia loses $3 billion a year to tax dodges by multinationals, mainly in the lucrative mining sector. A recent Africa Confidential report on the row between First Quantum and ZCCM-IH highlighted the Vancouver firm’s political influence, pointing out that “top government officials are frequently feted and hosted by FQM.”
First Quantum’s presence in Zambia dates to the late 1990s privatization of the Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM), which once produced 700,000 tonnes of copper per year. In a report on the sale, John Lungu and Alastair Fraser explain that “the division of ZCCM into several smaller companies and their sale to private investors between 1997 and 2000 marked the completion of one of the most comprehensive and rapid privatisation processes seen anywhere in the world.”
The highly indebted country was under immense pressure to sell its copper and public mining company. Zambia’s former Finance Minister Edith Nawakwi said, “we were told by advisers, who included the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank that…for the next 20 years, Zambian copper would not make a profit. [But, if we privatised] we would be able to access debt relief, and this was a huge carrot in front of us — like waving medicine in front of a dying woman. We had no option” but to privatize.
Ottawa played a part in the privatization push. Canada was part of the World-Bank-led Consultative Group of donors that promoted the copper selloff. With the sale moving too slowly for the donors, a May 1998 Consultative Group meeting in Paris made $530 million in balance of payments support dependent on privatizing the rest of ZCCM.
(Canada had been a proponent of neoliberal reform in Zambia since the late 1980s. At the time Ottawa slowed aid to the country in a successful bid to change the government’s attitude to neoliberal reforms, explains Carolyn Bassett in The Use of Canadian Aid to Support Structural Adjustment in Africa. After Zambia fell into line with the International Monetary Fund, CIDA recharged its aid program. As part of a push for economic reform Ottawa secured an agreement that gave a former vice president of the Bank of Canada the role of governor of the Bank of Zambia, where he oversaw the country’s monetary policies and “responses to the IMF”. In her 1991 PhD thesis Bassett notes, “instrumental in developing Zambia’s new ‘domestically designed’ [economic] program was the new head of the Bank of Zambia, Canadian Jacques Boussières.” Paid by Ottawa, Boussières was the first foreign governor of the Bank of Zambia since independence. This was not well received by some. Africa Events described Boussières as “a White Canadian who came to de- Zambianise the bank post under controversial circumstances.”)
The hasty sale of the public mining behemoth was highly unfavourable to Zambians. The price of copper was at a historic low and the individual leading the negotiations, Francis Kaunda, was later jailed for defrauding the public company. “ZCCM’s privatization was carried out with a complete lack of transparency, no debate in parliament, and with one-sided contracts which few of us have ever seen,” said James Lungu, a professor at Zambia’s Copperbelt University.
Taking advantage of the government’s weak bargaining position, First Quantum and other foreign companies picked up the valuable assets for rock bottom prices and left the government with ZCCM’s liabilities, including pensions. The foreign mining companies also negotiated ultralow royalty rates and the right to take the government to international arbitration if tax exemptions were withdrawn for 15 years or more. Many of the multinationals made their money back in a year or two and when the price of copper rose five-fold in the mid-2000s they made bundles.
Having conceded tax exemptions and ultralow royalty rates, the government captured little from the surge in global copper prices. In 2006 Zambian royalties from copper represented about $24 million on $4 billion worth of copper extracted. The .6% royalty rate was thought to be the lowest in the world. The government take from taxing the mining companies wasn’t a whole lot better. Between 2000 and 2007 Zambia exported $12.24 billion in copper but the government only collected $246 million in tax.
Since 2008 Zambia has wrestled more from the companies, but they’ve had to overcome stiff corporate resistance. When the government suggested an increased royalty in 2005 First Quantum’s commercial manager Andrew Hickman complained that it “would probably make any new mining ventures in Zambia uneconomical” while three years later First Quantum said it would have “no choice” but to take legal action if a new tax regime breached the agreement it signed during the privatization process.
With billions of dollars tied up in the country, First Quantum had good reason to campaign aggressively to maintain the country’s generous mining policy.
First Quantum stands accused of cheating Zambia out of tens of millions of dollars in taxes. An audit found that between 2006 and 2008 Mopani Copper Mines underreported cobalt extracts and manipulated internal prices to shift profits to First Quantum and Glencore subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda, allowing it to evade millions of dollars of tax in Zambia.
In Offshore Finance and Global Governance: Disciplining the Tax Nomad, William Vlcek explains: “As a corporate entity, First Quantum does not directly manage the mining operations in Zambia, rather it owns a subsidiary in Ireland which in turn owns subsidiary corporations registered in the British Virgin Islands and Zambia. … The overall corporate organization involves similar subordinate corporate structures with subsidiaries registered in Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Netherlands, none of which jurisdictions include a mine or smelter operated by First Quantum. … Jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands … do not impose a corporate income tax on foreign-sourced income. Thus, First Quantum's subsidiaries will pay corporate income tax on their operations in Zambia to the Zambian government, but any income that flows through to the BVI-registered subsidiary will not be taxed before flowing onward."
In a bid to cut down on corporate ‘transfer pricing’ and tax evasion, the Zambian government sought to simplify the mining fee structure. In 2013 Lusaka proposed eliminating income tax on mining companies and substantially increasing royalty rates (up to 20% for open-pit mines and 8% on underground operations). In 2015 Minister of Finance Alexander B. Chikwanda told Parliament: “the tax system was vulnerable to all forms of tax planning schemes such as transfer pricing, hedging and trading through ‘shell’ companies which are not directly linked to the core business. Sir, it has been a challenge for the revenue administration to detect and abate such practices. Further, provisions on capital allowances and carry forward of losses eliminated potential taxable profits. Mr Speaker, the tax structure was simply illusory as only two mining companies were paying Company Income Tax under the previous tax regime as most of them claimed that they were not in tax-paying positions.”
First Quantum, Toronto’s Barrick Gold and a number of other foreign mining companies screamed murder and worked to derail the Zambian government. First Quantum government affairs manager John Gladston said “the new system doesn’t incentivise investment in new capital projects which in turn, will inevitably be translated into fewer new jobs and less opportunities for wealth creation for Zambians.” To spur a backlash in the job-hungry country, First Quantum laid off 350 workers at its Kansanshi mine. The government responded by saying First Quantum wasn’t adhering to the country’s labour law. Government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili told Xinhua that “all mining companies are aware of the standing order, which obliges them to consult the government through the Ministry of Labour before any decision to sack any worker becomes effective.”
Barrick Gold also threatened to lay off workers if the government increased royalty rates. The Toronto company said it would shutter its Lumwana mine, which prompted 2,000 workers, fearing for their jobs, to hold a one-day strike. The foreign-run Chamber of Mines of Zambia claimed 12,000 jobs would be lost if the royalty changes went through and the IMF added its voice to those opposing the royalty hike.
The mining corporations’ strong-armed tactics succeeded. After a six-month standoff, the government backed off.
First Quantum, Barrick and the other foreign mining companies exploited the immense power ZCCM’s privatization gave them over Zambian economic life. By shuttering their mines they could produce economic hardship for thousands of people. (With an 80% unemployment rate and most Zambians living on less than a dollar a day, each formally employed individual provides for many others.) Some suggested the foreign mining companies were even “powerful enough to manipulate the exchange rate” of the country.
Canadian officials actively backed FQM and other mining companies in Zambia. At the 2013 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention Ottawa announced the start of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with Zambia, which would allow Canadian companies to pursue Zambia in international tribunal for lost profits. The next year the Head of Office at the Canadian High Commission, Sharad Kumar Gupta, “said the Canadian government is trying to encourage the private sector to explore… opportunities in Zambia’s mining sector,” reported Lusaka’s news.hot877.com.
After the leftist Patriotic Front opposition party accused First Quantum of blocking workers from voting in a 2005 parliamentary by-election, the Canadian High Commissioner defended the Vancouver company. John Deyell, who previously worked at mining giants Inco and Falconbridge in Sudbury, claimed First Quantum wasn’t responsible for day-to-day operations despite owning a sixth of MCM stock and controlling two seats on MCM’s executive board. In response the Patriotic Front sought to take their protest against MCM’s violation of workers’ rights to the Canadian High Commission, but the police denied them a permit.
In Zambia, as with elsewhere in Africa, Canada’s mining industry, foreign policy and neoliberalism overlap tightly. It’s a subject Canadians ought to pay attention to if we want our country to be a force for good in the world.
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There are reasons to celebrate the “July 22 Revolution” and remember President Yahya Jammeh in a simple way. This may be with national prayers in churches and mosques to heal and reconcile a divided and polarized nation, to move on with nation building. The Gambian people are not blind to the darkness and oppression of the Yahya years.
Although controversies and unsolved cases marred Jammeh’s 22 years rule, what will also be forever engraved in The Gambia’s history are his contributions in infrastructure development. Unprecedented infrastructure was built in the history of our country that provided means for Gambians to celebrate their cultural heritage, propagate arts and culture, prommote tourism, improve and contribute to economic growth.
Remembering the “July 22 Revolution” might speed up the process of reckoning. This can start with the retelling of the horrors: the knock on the door before dawn for an arrest without warrant; the rape; regular beatings; and water “cures”; the cigarette burn on the flesh; the wires attached to genitals and breasts for electric shock.
The struggles are worth retelling. It is the responsibility of those who lived through those difficult days to keep the memories alive for future generations, to ensure that the abuses are not repeated. Those who dared challenge the dictatorship often paid the ultimate price. This is worth celebrating, as democracy has endured despite numerous attempts and persistent threats to civil liberties. The greed that gave rise to the dictatorship has been tamed. The systematic violation of human rights is over.
Behind the physical horrors was the insatiable greed for power and wealth, with the dictatorship confiscating opponents’ businesses and handing these over to cronies. The alleged amassed wealth is mind-boggling: 86 bank accounts, 131 movable and immovable properties, and $50 million in accounts alone, impossible for a salary of 22 years. Basically, the thrust of remembering this day is moving the nation forward from just looking back at what has happened in the past and encouraging everybody to cooperate in nation building.
Yet, President Adama Barrow’s revolution is unfinished. Corruption remains rampant at all levels of government. Democratic institutions are weak, including the police and judicial system, which have failed to make anyone accountable for the abuses of President Jammeh except the “NIA Nine” and the few “Jugglers”. Millions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth have not been recovered, and no one has been sent to prison for amassing such wealth.
According to Freedom House, The Gambia’s political rights rating improved slightly from 7 to 6 due to Adama Barrow’s victory in the December 2016 presidential election. But the regime shows little respect for personal rights and civil liberties. There is urgent need for improvement.
The cumulative outcome and costs of President Jammeh’s dictatorship are incalculable. He was not content with simply being a president who had been reelected to four terms to the Gambian presidency. Enormous plunder of the nation’s wealth is only one of the costly consequences of his evil rule.
During his 22 years in power, the Gambia fell far behind several neighboring countries in West Africa in development, becoming “the basket case” in the region. Democracy was destroyed, the economy was in ruin, and a culture of corruption, violence and cynicism arose.
Hundreds of Gambians were killed, imprisoned, tortured, or displaced from their homes and communities. Or they simply disappeared without a trace. Women were raped with impunity by the military, police and other criminal elements known as the “Green Boys” and the “Jugglers”.
President Jammeh’s economics of debt-driven growth was disastrous for The Gambia. His regime was not interested in inclusive development, long-term state building, or the genuine social transformation of the country, despite the rhetoric of its Vision 2020 blueprint. Instead, President Jammeh was mainly concerned with perpetuating his personal hold on power by favoring family members, friends and other cronies. Thus, he simply created new elites or oligarchs rather than abolish them - supposedly one of his main justifications for dictatorial rule. Those who dared challenge the regime’s monopoly of power - whether politicians, businesspeople, political activists, lawyers, farmers, the urban poor, journalists, or students, young or old, rich or poor - were intimidated, imprisoned, kidnapped, tortured, or summarily executed.
Sections of Gambians have branded President Jammeh as merciless and even a criminal. True, but let us not forget the achievements of Jammeh’s administration before everything turned sour. It’s not always easy to see the good despite the bad, particularly because there are events which happen that we may never fully understand. The infrastructure that Yahya’s administration left us is a reminder that we should all start building something good despite the hard times. A good foundation with the right maintenance can lead to productivity.
In one of his speeches, Jammeh promised to make the nation great and in a way, he did. A lot of his infrastructural projects still stand today, like The Gambia University, Gambia Radio and Television Services, Kombo coastal roads networks bridges, schools and the supreme court complex.
Today, The Gambian people must refuse to forget the atrocities committed by President Jammeh’s regime, and we renew our demand that the perpetrators of these crimes be brought to justice. We also reiterate our position that the government of President Barrow should relentlessly pursue and reclaim all the ill-gotten wealth accumulated by President Jammeh’s family and its cronies. Moreover, the victims and their families should be given justice and compensation in full. Any call for unity, reconciliation and forgiveness in the bitterly divided the country will be empty and meaningless unless truth and justice are upheld.
The Gambian people must affirm their commitment to telling the truth about the horrors of President Jammeh’s dictatorship so that it can be remembered as one of the darkest periods of Gambian history.
The Gambian people must reject the argument that democracy does not work in The Gambia and that only a dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise, can bring our country to prosperity. We must, instead, encourage and harness the full democratic capacity of our people and institutions to progress as a nation. Although inequality and injustice persist, we believe the solution to these problems lies in deepening our democratic institutions and practices, empowering the marginalized and exacting accountability from our leaders and ourselves.
I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the attempts by some individuals and particularly public figures to whitewash President Jammeh regime’s wanton violation of human rights and to distort its political and economic record. I call on all our politicians to take a definite stand on the abuses of President Jammeh’s dictatorship. I challenge them to join our call to never again allow tyranny to take root in our society. I demand that candidates who directly or indirectly participated in and benefited from the regime apologize and, if necessary, make restitution for their role in the regime or their support of it.
I join The Gambian people who aspire to keep alive the ideals and heroism of the many brave Gambians who fought the regime. For as long as we remember and share these stories, I believe future generations of Gambians will learn the lessons of the years of struggle leading to the defeat of the dictatorship during the People’s Power Revolution on December 1, 2017.
The fullness of democratization, especially the creation of a political and socio-economic order, which respects the dignity of all Gambians, has yet to be achieved. It is our responsibility now to continue and complete this unfinished struggle, starting with the truth.
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