By Yankuba Jallow & Nelson Manneh
Lawyer Essa Mbye Faal, the lead counsel at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has on Thursday evening declared his interest to run for president in the forthcoming presidential elections as an independent candidate.
Faal said he is the best candidate for the Gambia ahead of the 2021 presidential elections slated for the 4th December 2021.
“I am the best candidate for the Gambia. I believe I am second to none [to all of the presidential candidates]. I have a track record of success in everything I do,” Essa Faal said.
Faal is hailed by many Gambians for the good job he did working at the truth commission investigating past human rights violations that allegedly occurred between July 1994 and January 2017.
Faal’s campaign mantra is development, empowerment, hope and change for a better Gambia.
“I am certain that under my leadership, I will turn things around,” he said.
Faal was speaking before the press at the American International University. He said the country is regressing and the people are suffering, adding the cost of living is skyrocketing. He submitted that ordinary people are at the mercy of businessmen.
He said the salary paid to workers is extremely low because they are unregulated. He added that the average salary of workers cannot match the cost of living.
“Workers are not afforded a decent standard of living. A lot of them are denied of dignity. Due to the law wages, corruption has been on the rampages,” he said.
He said people continue to die at the hospitals because of lack of basic facilities. He cited his father’s demise as an example, saying it could have been averted.
“The medical and health care system is a dead trap. We are all victims. People are dying because there are no facilities to carryout basic procedures to save lives,” he said.
He said the quality of education in this country has deteriorated so badly.
“Many of the teachers are simply not qualified or not good enough for the job. The poor quality education is offered at high cost,” he said.
He said employment opportunities for young people are extremely narrow.
“Young men and women can’t find jobs. Many of them resort to the perilous journey using the high seas to Europe. Why can’t they make it here?,” he quizzed.
He cited football which many young people hold onto saying they don’t have facilities to showcase their talents. He described the situation as shocking.
He said the agricultural sector is declining.
“A country that cannot feed itself is doomed. Instead of growing our crops, we are importing them from Senegal. It could have been local production. We should produce our food. The fishes that we had in abundance are no longer visible. A lot of our fishes are finding their ways to China and other neighbouring countries while our people continue to suffer,” he said.
The security situation of the country is not safe.
He said “Mbirmi- Dohut” in wollof meaning things are not working, adding “mol be batata” meaning people are suffering.
‘The Gambia is in a very sorry state. It is a Gambia where the Government is not present in 90% of the places. Some places do not have portable water, no schools, health centre and roads. Where is the Government?” Faal quizzed.
He cited a report that states 45% of urban Gambians do not drink clean water indicating that the pipes used by NAWEC to supply water are infected.
He said countries that Gambians used to look lower upon like Guinea Bissau are prospering, leaving the former British colony behind. He submitted that the problem is as a result of poor leadership.
Faal said the Gambia should be led by educated people.
“Tell me any country in the world that is changed by the least educated?” Faal quizzed.
He said the promises of 2017 have not been put into action, adding the country is still faced with serious challenges.
“It is time to confront these challenges head-on and choose the right leaders. It is our time to make the change and it is our time to do that,” he said.
He said Gambians yearn for change -a change in which they will entrust this country in the hands of educated Gambians to save this country.
Faal said his government will promote unity and reconciliation among Gambian people. Also, he said his Government will take full and proper control of the natural resources.
“No one knows what they are digging (excavating). Is that not a tragedy?” Faal quizzed.
He said his Government will provide the right type of education, criticizing the current education system as ‘learn to memories’.
“Our education system should be geared towards teaching students knowledge that will address our problems. The focus should be more on the sciences. My Government will establish a computer laboratory in every high school in the country,” he said.
He said his Government will address the erratic internet supply.
“Our internet is far from stable. We should invest in high speed broadband internet supply,” he said.
He said the police and other security personnel deserve an increased salary, adding his government will come up with minimum salary for workers. He maintained that every Gambian who has a job deserves better pay.
“I want a cabinet that is 50% women and ethnically balanced,” he said.
He said there should be banks that give soft loans for people to buy a car or build a house. He said the interest rate is very high for people who need loan.
“If you want to go bankrupt, take a bank loan,” he said
He said his Government will priorities fighting corruption.
On road congestion, he said he will establish an office at the Office of the President responsible for building roads and other infrastructures.
He said his Government will invest in renewable energy.
“I cannot understand why we cannot buy solar,” he said.
“I think we should focus more on commercial agriculture rather than the subsistence farming that we have now.
“We have to consciously draw up a programme to create employment.
“There are lots of leakages in our tax laws and lots of lost. We have to invest in the enforcement and implementation of our tax laws.
“The most disheartening sector in this country is the health care service. We need health insurance,” he said.
He said his Government will establish a department of Diaspora Affairs at the Office of the President. It will help Gambians in the Diaspora to build their homes and send money at a cheaper rate.
“I will make it a crusade to ensure justice for the victims. I know it will come with a price but I will ensure that all the victims get the reparations they need and the recognition they deserve. I will not be a government that will put it under the carpet,” he said.