My dear People of The Gambia:
I greet you in the Mighty Name of Almighty God, whom most of you call Allah, and hasten to extend to you all my heartfelt congratulations and felicitations on your successful elections of the past two days, through which you ousted from power President Yahya Jammeh, and freed your country and yourselves from his tyrannical rule.
Your beloved country has been through 22 years of persistent anguish, during which so many of your compatriots have been ruthlessly imprisoned, tortured and even killed, beginning already with some of Jammeh’s own fellow lieutenants with whom he overthrew the democratically elected President, Sir Dawda Jawara.
Among Jammeh’s victims, too, were scores of journalists, many of whom were imprisoned and brutally murdered, beginning with our beloved colleague Deyda Hydara, Publisher of The Point newspaper and former President of the Gambian Press Union. In addition, an untold number of other journalists were driven into exile, beginning with those trained by me personally between 1992 and 1994, when I myself was deported by Jammeh and his immigration officials. We thank God that many of these journalists, forced into exiled, became some of Africa’s most prominent, at least two of whom now have their doctorate degrees; two have graduated from the world’s most prestigious journalism training institution, my alma mater, the Columbia School of Journalism in New York; and many have bachelor’s and master’s degrees and all are gainfully employed in reputable institutions around the world. Some, like Sherif Bojang Jr., are international correspondents for some of the world’s leading media institutions.
It is to their eternal credit that many of these former Observer staff, in addition to many other Gambian journalists and ordinary but conscientious and patriotic Gambian citizens, have been over the past 22 years actively involved in the struggle against
Jammeh’s tyrannical misrule.
I highly commend all citizens of The Gambia for your astute, determined and patriotic resolve by which, punctuated, even peppered by your united stand, you have been able to create a new political dispensation for yourselves and your country, that is set to restore democracy to your beloved Gambia.
We congratulate President-Elect Adama Barrow on his clean, historic victory, indeed the victory for all Gambians. We pray that he will work faithfully, relentlessly and expeditiously to restore democracy and the rule of law to The Gambia, by which the spirit and self-confidence of all Gambians will be uplifted, and the people become ready to participate meaningfully in national reconstruction and human development.
We further commend the Gambian Elections Commission for the peaceful and orderly way in which they organized and executed these most recent elections, and for making them fair, transparent and credible.
I cannot and will not be remiss in extending to President Yahya Jammeh my thanks, appreciation and commendation for graciously conceding defeat. This is a positive step in the beginning of national reconciliation that the country needs to heal from the anguish and torment of the recent past.
We pray that other African countries will learn from two positive and enviable examples in this latest electoral scenario: first, the united stand of a people determined to take back their country from one-man rule; and second, President Jammeh’s concession in the face of decisive defeat – a rare occurrence in Africa in recent times.
Kenneth Y. Best, Publisher, Liberian Daily Observer