Gambian pilgrims return home
Monday, January 05, 2009
The last flight carrying 181 Gambian pilgrims arrived at the Banjul International Airport, on Saturday afternoon. All 1303 pilgrims that left Banjul for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia have now safely returned home.
It could be recalled that pilgrims failed to return on their due date because of what could be described as a breach of contract by the airline contracted to transport the prigrims. Upon realisation of this situation, the president of the republic, Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh, gave immediate instructions for special flight arrangements to bring back all the Gambian prigrims. The president also ensured that all prigrims get fed as they waited for their return flight to Banjul.
This is not the first time the Gambian leader is coming to the aid of pilgrims; he is on record for having sponsored many people, in recent years, to take part in what is a life time dream for Muslims. In fact, a substantial number of pilgrims in this year's Hajj went on President Jammeh's tickets.
Meanwhile, information gathered by the Daily Observer reveals that the pilgrims had all embarked on their religious right successfully, in accordance with the dictates of the Islamic teaching. Below are reactions of some of the prigrims.
Alhaji Ousman Jah, Panelist of the Cadi Appeal Panel,
"I thank the Daily Observer for taking this initiative to talk to the pilgrims to share their experiences on the Hajj with the general public. This year is my 26th year of pilgrimage to Mecca. I worked in many capacities of the pilgrimage to Mecca such as ordinary guide, head of mission, Amir-ul-Hajj, Amir or head of Banjul Travel up to date. But what I experienced in this year's Hajj, I have never experienced it before.
That is on the issue of uplifting pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia. The going was somehow smooth but during our time of coming back home, I saw a very strange thing. This has never happened before because normally after the pilgrimage we don't experience much problems in coming back home. But for this year, before the first flight departed, we spent about two weeks there and we didn't know how the arrangements were made.
At some point, we were made to understand that the man who was contracted to coordinate the airlifting of pilgrims for the intercontinental airline was nowhere to be seen, and that they do not have any representative who will tell the pilgrims what arrangements were been made for their airlifting. Then we went to the Saudi Arabian authorities to tell them that our flight had been delayed and that we had no information about it.
They took us to the hotel and after sometime told us that the plane was in The Gambia. They said that there is no official source that could tell them about the flight arrangements because Captain Henry, a Nigerian who headed the Intercontinental Airways was said to be in Nigeria. We later got information that Captain Henry had not paid 'Astraeus', the company he hired the aircraft from, and that that was why the aircraft had to go back to London.
We also got information that Air Astraeus said they had no problem with The Gambia but that Captain Henry did not pay them and they were a business entity. I want an investigation to be launched into this matter so that those behind this delay be dealt with according to the laws of the land or else if this trend continues, Gambian pilgrims will continue to face problems during the Hajj period. I want the authorities to take serious steps in this matter or else there will come a time when Gambians might not have the chance to go to Mecca due to many reasons.
The absence of The Gambia International Airlines (GIA)'s participation in this Hajj has also disturbed us a lot because GIA has people that can inspect the Aeroplane and assist the pilgrims. I have no interest in GIA's involvement in the Hajj operation, but I am just making a suggestion, for easy movement and airlifting of pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia.
I thank President Jammeh for his timely support and intervention in bringing us back home. Finally I would like to appeal to the president to launch an investigation into the matter and deal with the people behind this act in accordance with the laws of the country. I also pray to Allah (SWT) to guide and protect President Jammeh"
Aja Nyaranding Daffeh - Old Yundum:
We have done the Hajj in peace and we had no problem during the course of the pilgrimage. Those of us who were part of the last batch should thank President Jammeh for his timely intervention in providing all our basic needs, like food and other necessities, as well as airlifting pilgrims back home despite the delay.
President Jammeh is a great man and he demonstrates great care, love and concern for Gambians at all times. One can only realise this fact when you have a problem outside The Gambia. I pray that the Almighty Allah gives him long life and continues to guide him.
Alhagie Ibrahim Masanneh Jarjue -
Director of Information Technology at Tallinding Islamic Institute:
We did not have any problem in performing the Hajj. Everything went successfully. We had problems only when we were about to come after the pilgrimage and it was basically the lack of a transportation means (aeroplane) to bring us back home.
This has caused us delay but we were very fortunate to have the blessing and support of President Yahya Jammeh, as he provided an aircraft that helped to airlift us from Mecca and brought us back home. I pray that the Almighty Allah guide and protect President Jammeh, his family and the nation.
Aji Adama Kah-Njie - Records Officer at Gamworks and resident of Fajara:
We thank God for giving us the opportunity and strength to perform this Muslim journey of pilgrimage. I also want to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to President Yahya Jammeh for providing me with a Hajj ticket and pocket money. He has done everything for us while on this journey of pilgrimage. So I and my family thank him so much and we pray for Allah the Almighty to guide and protect him, his family and his mother.
Though the Hajj was hectic, we thank God that we were able to perform it successfully. After the pilgrimage, we had some delay in coming back home but with the President's timely intervention, we were able to make it back home safely. We finished the Hajj since on the 9th December but some of us arrived here on the 27th December 2008. It was President Jammeh who provided an aircraft to bring all of us back home and we really thank him for all his efforts.
I also thank Banjul Travel Agency for their efforts in helping some of the pilgrims, especially those who were stranded. I want to commend Dr. Fatou Secka, the nurses and also Omar Sey and Yandeh Faye, the General Manager of Banjul Travel Agency, for their show of care and support to the pilgrims.
Finally I want to use this opportunity to congratulate President Jammeh for his achievement of 3 International Awards recently, including his professorship title. I also want to extend to President Jammeh my condolence message on the loss of his aunt, Aja Fatou Jammeh who passed away last week," she concluded.
Aja Mariama Jallow-Drammeh - Latrikunda German:
We thank God for giving us the strength and opportunity to perform the Hajj. The journey was nice and we received a lot of support from President Jammeh. Aja Adu Lette Sey of Orbit Travel Agency also assisted us greatly, especially those who were stranded or felt sick. Modou Joof of GRTS also assisted us a lot. He is a good man.
I pray to God to protect and give long life to Professor Jammeh. He has done a lot for us. We are grateful to him. President Jammeh is a role model in the whole world. I pray to Allah the Almighty to grant him, his family and his mother long life and good health", she said.