Human Rights News Opinion

Commemoration of Africa Liberation Day

Part I

Fatoumatta: Annually on May 25th, Africans celebrate Africa Freedom Day, also known as Africa Liberation Day (ALD). This day is reserved for reflecting on the liberation struggle that led to the independence of numerous nations across this vast and prosperous continent. As we revel in the wealth of this God-given, resource-rich land, we take time to contemplate the significance of this day for AFRICA. Our forefathers dedicated this day to the complete liberation of Africa from colonial rule.

The day is closely associated with Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and other founding fathers like Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Ben Bella, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure, among others, who championed the cause for a liberated Africa. An Africa that would flourish with freedom of expression and the autonomy that comes with self-governance. Today, many countries on the continent proudly acknowledge their freedom from colonialism.

Fatoumatta: What does African Freedom Day signify when numerous African journalists and republican activists are incarcerated for their spoken and written words? What does Africa Liberation Day represent when freedoms of expression, assembly, and protest are criminalized? When Africans are charged with criminal defamation for non-violent protests, when outdated draconian colonial laws like the Public Order Act and offenses such as “Insulting the President” and “spreading false news” are still present in our statute books, what is there to celebrate if there is no freedom to picket and express oneself?

As we observe Africa Freedom Day, it appears that some Africans are reinforcing the chains of subjugation rather than pursuing liberation, moving ever closer to a state where free thought and living are penalized. While parts of Africa make strides towards the freedom of the press, speech, conscience, and assembly, others are regressing, imposing constraints on political thought, assembly, and the criminalization of peaceful demonstration.

As Africa Freedom Day is celebrated, it is sobering to acknowledge that 94 journalists are currently imprisoned across Africa. The trend of incarcerating journalists, often on dubious charges, has escalated dramatically in the past decade. Since the year 2000, the number of imprisoned journalists has risen from 94. Each of these individuals, detained at the start of this decade and those currently incarcerated, represent more than mere statistics; their lives and careers have been profoundly affected by their incarceration. Eritrea holds the majority of these journalists, with 82 currently imprisoned, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, marking the second-highest total globally after Iran. The question arises: what is there to celebrate if freedoms of protest and expression are absent?

Today, African nations can proudly proclaim their freedom from the oppressive shadow of colonialism. Yet, the pressing issue remains: how can we claim to be proud and free when our educated youth join the growing ranks of the unemployed? How can we compare ourselves to a “noble eagle in its flight” while denying opportunities to our youth? While the region sees the emergence of millionaires, The Gambia has not produced a comparable number.

Today, Gambia’s productive capacity has diminished to less than a third of what it was decades ago, despite having more graduates and a population well over 2 million. Fifty-nine years after independence, Gambia continues to be inundated with cheap, and sometimes dangerous, products that often fail to meet the minimum global standards.

As you commemorate Africa Freedom Day this year, I urge all well-intentioned Gambians to ponder the numerous shortcomings we’ve faced as a nation and to commit to not merely observing from the sidelines as our country deteriorates. I call on you to become the catalyst for the change necessary to steer Gambia back towards economic freedom and emancipation; to join the effort to transform Gambia. The hope and future of this great nation rest firmly on our collective energy, wisdom, and determination to make it a better place not only for our children but for generations to come.

Fatoumatta: This year’s Africa Freedom Day celebrations should inspire a resolution to lead the next wave of change, ushering in accountable leadership through the ballot, ensuring responsible governance, and ending the “caretaker leadership” that plunders The Gambia’s wealth with impunity. May God bless you, The Gambia, Africa, and may you have a joyous Africa Freedom Day.

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