|Waa Juwara was arrested on several occasions and tortured (Photo Slide: Kibaaro News)|
The leader of the opposition National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM), Mr Waa Juwara is no longer sure if he is an opposition.
He has worked with the Jammeh-led Government as an opposition since 2009 when he became governor of Lower River Region and later Minister of Local Government and Lands.
On the eve of President Jammeh’s 19th Anniversary of the July 22 Coup, Juwara told The Voice: “We will be able to keep it cool and be able to contribute in one way or the other to make sure that Gambia is still intact.”
“That is why we talk about development, you cannot talk about development in actual fact when there is no peace and stability which we have enjoyed for a good measure,” he said on Sunday, July 21.
How do you see the 19 years rule of the APRC Government as an opposition?
Am not sure whether I am an opposition to say, but just a Gambian and really we have to be objective and evaluate on what has transpired, it is the most important thing.
We have seen what actually happened in our sub-region, to most of the countries where some sort of transformation has taken place. We have seen what happen in Liberia, Sierra Leone and most of our close neighbours - that is why we should thank God that we are spared of the kinds of disturbances that have happened in these countries.
I think we should pray to God and thank him for providing that leadership for us. If I have my own apprehension at the time, because what had happen to our neighbours is really bad, our country may also go the same way, but today we are very grateful and thankful to God.
What I am saying to Gambian people as a whole is that we will able to keep it cool and be able to contribute in one way or the other to make sure that Gambia is still intact. That is why we talk about development; you cannot talk about development in actual fact when there is no peace and stability which we have enjoyed for a good measure.
The records show that the development achievements are very impressive. Looking at it from every angle be it infrastructure, education and development in general, a lot have been achieved.
I think that also contributed to the stability of the country because he (President Jammeh) was very sincere and committed and was not just there to cater his own net, but was here to do whatever possible to the enhancement of the development of the country, which was an agenda that he was pushing.
Of course we have our limitations as a third world and small country and with limited resources, but what have been achieved so far is really commendable.
Which area(s) do you think a lot of progress has been registered?
Basically, let’s look at education. If you look at education, the progress that is made is really significant, let’s focus on the School system, the high schools that are in the country - with good quality and better standards.
There is hardly any region that doesn’t have a high school and of course primary education is almost accessible to every child across the country. This is something very important and commendable.
And something we think was out of reach to the average Gambian is a University. I know all the difficulties people faced to have access to university education which was available only outside the country.
Now young people have access to it at home which is a big achievement by The Gambia Government.
I think this is very commendable and we are all proud of that. Gambians use to go to Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Europe or America under very tedious conditions just to acquire university education. Now we have it in this country, we are all proud of it.
What do you think about the country’s human rights record?
We have our problem and really this has been the same across the board in the whole of Africa - where we have new countries coming up before they can stand on their own. We have a long way to go. What does democracy means? Multiparty, isn’t it, the rule of law?
And really we have to accept the facts, if you can have colonialism, where was all the human rights? Others can come colonised you, we have seen what has happened in our own history; we know about the slave trade, we know how we suffered under colonialism.
This is a process and every mission should be given a new way to see how we process this. It cannot be overnight in fact those who colonised us who talking about democracy they know, they were not doing democracy.
Even countries that champion democracy have problems. This is human problem we have to accept. And look you cannot change that and say look you are less than human being because your democracy is not standard and we are on the right point.
We have had our own multiparty elections since this 22 July and more improvements have taken place.
Am not saying the human right records of The Gambia is the best but let them think what they (the West) were not able to do they can make us do.
When you come to the question of EU-Gambia relationship, things are taking course and I welcome it. We had a very long relationship and I think we should exploit it to the maximum. We must dialogue over it, trash out things we should do. It is all about consensus and you cannot have consensus without dialogue.
And in dialogue that’s why you have fair play – and I think that the recent developments (return to talks) are very welcome.
What can the opposition do?
I think the opposition in this country will be able to do what they can. I want to make it very clear that there was no foul play against the opposition for them not to have existed.
President Jammeh and his government have not repressed the opposition out of existence. And I think that really that it will be unfair to say the opposition is not functioning as fully as it should be.
In fact, he is open to the opposition and had work with them. I am a typical example.
The problem in this country is not the leadership of the internal opposition per se, we had our drawbacks, and we have our squabbles and our differences here and there. The problem with the opposition in The Gambia is that they don’t have the resources needed to effectively run their political parties.
And those who are mentors outside have just been talking, they have not been acting. If they really want democracy and a vibrant opposition in this country, all these people in the diaspora who pretend to be in opposition - if they could commit themselves to pay 25 Dollars per-month - the opposition of this country would be on its foot and would have done effectively. But they just talk and don’t do anything.
There is no support externally, materially to the opposition in this country. The problem is not party A or party B – the drawback is that they don’t have the resources to function as effectively as they should.
And I think there is some element of hypocrisy with those in the diaspora who pretend to know all the problems in this country and they are the only people who can solve these problems. They are no commitment it is just empty talk. There is no commitment. Gambians in the diaspora in Europe in America all across the world who say they are oppose to the regime have not been effective because they have not been able to make their contributions.
If the Gambia is not worth for you $25 a month then I don’t think there is anything worthy. They are just like bystanders who are just clapping and they are not just part of the whole system – this is the problem of the opposition in this country.
It is not because president Jammeh is oppressive; it is not because he does not want a functioning opposition in this country. Absolutely, there are no restrictions whatsoever for these parties (opposition) not to have function.
Are you going to continue with your party, NDAM?
Well, for me, I have reached a state where I think I have numerous ways of making my contribution. Change is not for individuals, it is for the public, the general public.
I have been able to make my own contributions in a small way – I have to pick up a government job and I think that this is my honest contribution.
Do you think there is a cause to celebrate the July 22 Coup?
Of course there is a cause to celebrate. The July 22 revolution has brought a lot of development to this country, thus the focus, the nationalism and the level of our commitment. I really commend him (President Jammeh) and I think that we should also be able to do our own part.
No one man can develop a whole country; it has to be all hands on deck. I really sometimes pity him for some of the disappointments he is been getting from people that he trusted.
Finally, what is your last word?
My last word I to say Mr President I congratulate you. In my wildest of dreams I never thought he will be there for this long – and it has happened. Gambians have enjoyed a measure of development unprecedented in their history with tolerance and peace.
I also thank him for providing the young people with the basics to participate in national development. He is a role model for young people.
Finally, I urge all Gambians to work together towards national development.
- Source: The Voice Newspaper, Serrekunda, The Gambia