African Liberation Day: the struggle for economic freedom continues

On 25th May 2021, Africans in their numbers will be celebrating African Freedom Day. A day that has been set apart to reflect on the liberation struggle culminated in the emancipation of many countries across this great and wealthy continent. 

As we bask in the bastion of this our God-given resource-rich continent, we would like us to take some time to reflect on this day and ascertain what it means for AFRICA. Our founding fathers dedicated this day to the total liberation of Africa from colonialism.

A day that is directly attributed to Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and the many founding fathers such as Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Ben Bella, and many others who saw a cause to have a liberated Africa that would thrive on freedom of expression and the liberty that comes as a result of having self-governance on the continent of Africa and beyond. 

Many countries on the continent today stand tall and appreciate the fact that they won their independence from colonialism. 

What does African FREEDOM DAY mean when several African Journalists are imprisoned for written words? What does AFRICAN LIBERATION DAY mean when freedom of assembly and protesting are criminalized? 

When several Africans charged for non-violence protest. When archaic draconian colonial laws are prevalent in our statutes books, what are we to celebrate if there is no freedom of picketing and freedom of expression?

As African Governments hinge the delay to produce Covid-19 Vaccines on its inability to procure the required technology for the production. We challenged African governments to look inward and adequately fund their health sectors.

We urged African governments not to wait “naively and irresponsibly” on those who said they might not have compassion for the poor African countries, insisting that they should fund the health sector for the public good.

Regrettably, Africa produced vaccines in the 1970s but can now talk of its vaccines against coronavirus in 2021. It is regrettable that in Africa, with more than 1.17 billion people, only about 5 million persons had been vaccinated.

With all the billions garnered by the private sector Collation Against Covid (CACOVID) last year, African governments are yet to report noticeable improvements in healthcare infrastructure. 

Not enough molecular laboratories have been built. Ventilators are not in adequate supply in hospitals and isolation centers. Even with all the warnings that the unfortunate situations in India, Brazil, and Turkey are presenting to the world, Africa is not getting prepared for the possibility of another virulent wave with massive production of medical Oxygen and other essential materials to save lives.

Thus, some countries are stocking vaccines more than their urgent needs, while some countries lack vaccines to save the highly underprivileged sections of their populations. 

And the challenges of hoarding vaccines by the developed countries beacons on Africa to prepare for future pandemics by producing its own vaccines.

We urged African governments not to wait naively and irresponsibly on those who said they might not have compassion for the poor African countries, insisting that they should fund the health sector for the public good. 

As we celebrate African Freedom Day, some Africans are entrenching slavery away from liberation; others are moving closer and closer to become slaves where free thinking and free living will be punished. 

As the rest of Africa is curtailed towards freedom of the press, free speech, free conscience, conscience, free assembly, other Africans move towards enslaving, political thinking and free assembly, and picket/demonstrate criminalization.

As we celebrate AFRICAN FREEDOM DAY, there are currently 84 journalists imprisoned in Africa. More than half the jailed journalists are held in that scourge of media freedom. 

The most disturbing news to come out of CPJ’s recent report on journalists behind bars is that the trend of imprisoning journalists – often on trumped-up charges – has seen a sharp increase over the last decade. 

Since 1996, in 2000, there were only 81 imprisoned journalists, but since then, the number has been increasing. Although “only” perhaps is not the right word, as every one of those detained in at the beginning of this decade, and all of those in jail now, are not merely statistics, but individuals whose lives – and careers – have been irrevocably altered by their time behind bars. 

In Africa, by far the most significant number of journalists are jailed in Eritrea, where, according to CPJ, there are currently 72 journalists in prison (the second-highest total in the world, after Iran): What are we to celebrate if there is no freedom of picketing and freedom of expression?

Today, all African countries can sing with pride as they are no longer under the depressing yoke of colonialism. The bigger question is how we shall stand and sing of Africa proud and free when our children are graduating from the finest schools in Africa and abroad only to be welcomed into the ever-increasing queue of the unemployed? 

How do we liken ourselves to a “noble eagle in its flight” when taking away opportunities from our children? The Gambia has failed to produce several millionaires when countries within the region continue to churn out millionaires in numbers.

Today, Gambia’s productive capability has reduced to less than a third of where it was decades ago, besides having more graduates and a population of well about 2 million. 56 years after independence, the Gambia continues to be a dumping ground for cheap and, in some instances, dangerous products, the bulk of which fall short of the minimum threshold of acceptable global standards.

To all well-meaning Gambians, as you celebrate African Freedom Day this year, I challenge you to reflect on the many inadequacies that we have had to grapple with as a nation and make a resolve not to stand by the fence and watch while the country continues to degenerate. 

I call upon you to be the change agent that will bring about the necessary change to set back the Gambia on the course of economic freedom and emancipation; be a part of the team that will resolve to transform the Gambia. 

The hope and future of this great nation lie squarely in our collective energy, wisdom, and zeal to make this nation a better place to live in not just by our children but by our children’s children to the fourth generation.

This year’s African Freedom Day celebrations should culminate in you resolving as we lead the next wave of change that will usher in an accountable leadership through the ballot to have a responsible leadership and take away “caretaker leadership” that continues to pillage the Gambia’s wealth with impunity. 

God Bless You, God Bless The Gambia, God Bless Africa, and Happy African Freedom Day.

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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