The news of this executive verdict dissolving the Movement went viral and sent shockwaves both within and outside the confines of the country. The multitude of militants and sympathisers alike mourned the untimely demise of an organization that they had cherished so dearly and in which they put their faith and trust for the sake of posterity.
Yes,the July 22nd Movement has gone,but its legacy shall continue to haunt the minds of those progressive and patriotic Gambians who continuously cherish the fundamental principles of the July 22nd Revolution under the visionary leadership of His Excellency the President and Head of State of the Republic.This legacy will additionally illuminate the hearts and minds of all-well meaning compatriots especially today’s youth and the nextcoming generation alike who need to be nurtured on the virtues and fundamental principles upon which the Movement was duly founded by His Excellency the Leader namely LOYALTY COMMITMENT,DEDICATION,SINCERITY.
More importantly, the militants and sympathizers as well, with much pride and humility, will take solace in the fact that the Founder/Chief Patron of this once great Movement, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya AJJ Jammeh, will find his name inscripted on the walls of the Hall of Fame alongside those progressive African Leaders and the ideals of those revolutionary organisations that they espoused. This state of affairs will undoubtedly be of immense value to researchers, students of African History and Political Science as well in their pursuit for academic excellence in their respective fields of study.
However, the dissolution of the July 22nd Movement never deterred the course of the several progressive strides already made by the Revolution both during the Transition Period and the early years of the Second Republic under the robust Party machinery. The revolutionary Leadership remained more focused and ever relentless in the pursuit of effecting the all-round politico-socio-economic national development agenda.
The priority areas of education, health, agriculture and infrastructural development remained the preoccupation of the Revolution as ever. This was more important especially during the short two-year Transition Period when phenomenal gains were already made in these sectors thereby absolving the leadership from the numerous nefarious attempts of detractors and prophets-of-doom to discredit the regime. The latter has on the contrary, consistently and persistently demonstrated its ability, commitment, dedication and above all, its sincerity to live up to the sacred and noble ideals of the July 22nd Revolution at all costs.
Education today in The Gambia, is no longer a privilege, but an inalienable fundamental human right for every bonafide citizen to have access to. Most importantly, it is affordable since it is essentially gratis at almost all levels throughout the country. An innumerable number of Basic and Secondary Schools have been constructed over the years and strewn nationwide. This started with the earlier projects during the Transition Period which in essence laid the solid and robust foundation for this impressive development. The numerous Secondary Schools that have been constructed within these twenty two years, out- number by over thousand fold the only five Secondary Schools (four of these were run by Christian Missions) that existed during the four hundred years of Colonial administration and the thirty years of the People’s Progressive Party regime. Hence, the official policy “..for education, the sky is the limit…”has now become a national household slogan always echoed by students much to the delight and appreciation of parents and guardians who are now relieved of the enormous social, financial burden and other nightmares that they faced in the pursuit of their children’s education. To put icing on the cake, the Revolution has radically transformed the education sector by making it qualitative and relevant and has put in place the necessary inputs and other paraphernalia in order to boost the moral and uplift the status of teachers and all the other relevant stakeholders in this important sector.
In addition to the formal school system, the education sector has also witnessed the rapid establishment and mushrooming of Islamic institutions (Madrassas) nationwide at the basic/secondary/University levels respectfully. This compares oddly to the unfortunate state that existed prior to the Revolution when religious education was accessed only through the few privately run“daaras”excluding many muslim children. Thus,with this impressive bill of health in the education sector within this short period of twenty two years,The Gambia,under the visionary stewardship of His Excellency the Leader and Chairman of the Revolution, is poised to gradually transform herself to a citadel of learning in the not distant future. The creation of the University of The Gambia (UTG) in 1999 and its various affiliated institutions, the Yahya Jammeh Islamic University, the Online Islamic University and other private institutions of higher learning, are a clear testimony to this assertion.The country has played host to many foreign students from far and near who have since returned to their respective countries after successfully finishing their studies.
The University of The Gambia despite its short period of existence, has been able to make an indelible mark in the world of academia by the quality of its staff and the fine caliber of its products who today can be seen walking along corridors of power occupying senior positions of trust and responsibility in various fields of endeavour both here at home and abroad. Apart from the students enrolled at the University of The Gambia,there are also several other Government sponsored students overseas pursuing courses in special fields of study and many more in friendly countries like Cuba and Venezuela.
The age-old adage that a “healthy nation is a wealthy nation” is indeed apt and relevant for the Gambian scenario as is evidenced in the official declaration ….” universal access to quality health care delivery system at the doorstep of every Gambian”. It was as a result of the latter that the Revolution took it upon itself as a huge challenge to demonstrate its commitment and sincerity by initiating the construction of new health facilities throughout the country and the total rehabilitation or revamp of the very few that existed prior to the Revolution.The AFPRC General Hospital in Farafenni became the central point of reference as it was the first referral hospital built by the new regime to add to the only two hospitals,the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Banjul and Bansang Hospital in the Central River Region that existed during the four centuries of Colonial rule and the three decadent decades of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) rule.
In addition to the APRC General Hospital,we can today count several referral hospitals and other major health outposts in each administrative Region of the country.The massive construction drive in this sector and the provision of the requisite medical equipment,logistics,trained,dedicated and motivated personnel,have indeed contributed in alleviating the health status of the people of this country since the advent of the Revolution in 1994.The heavy social and financial burden that the people shouldered to access proper health care,not mentioning the enormous difficulties of travel and distance,are a thing of the past. Today, access to proper health care is considered as a fundamental human right and therefore made humanly cheap and affordable for the citizenry. Furthermore, the tremendous strides made in this sector are again alluded to the foresight and timely intervention of the leadership in the establishment of the School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences in genuine and close collaboration with the revolutionary Government and people of Cuba. The intervention of the latter as early as 1996 by providing several qualified medical personnel in different specialities at this crucial period of the Revolution, has cemented the cordial bilateral ties between the two sisterly countries. This partner- ship again yielded positive results in the training and education of the first batch of qualified medical doctors and other health personnel in the history of this country. These homegrown medical personnel are today deployed indiscriminately throughout the country rendering their sacred duties in the name of the Revolution to which they feel highly indebted and ever grateful for the wide window of opportunity that was open to them. Consequently, the very cordial Gambia/Cuba relations was manifested in the recent celebrations marking twenty years of this fruitful South/ South cooperation (1996-2016).
To be continued
By Pa Modou Njie