By Adama Tine
African Descendants residing in the Gambia over the weekend held their first ever symposium with members of the National Assembly, human right activists, historians and stakeholders at the Paradise Suites Hotel.
The National Assembly Member for Central Badibu, Sulayman Saho, who chaired the symposium said African descendants are finally reaching the Promised Land (Africa.)
“Slavery is not something new in Africa and for these people to be accorded automatic citizenship, support of the executive is crucial more so, the president,” he said.
He added that the role of the National Assembly is crucial in implementing laws that will guarantee the process of returning home. He said the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is known to everyone and people must understand why some Africans left Africa for the Americas. Therefore he said the home-comers need to be recognized as Africans and their return be considered as a family reunion.
The Central Badibu NAM said, if President Adama Barrow accords automatic citizenship to the African descendants, it will be a historic moment for the entire country.
The founder of the Council of African Descendants (COAD) Juliet Ryan, highlighted the significance of organizing the symposium, adding that it will go a long way in addressing issues of automatic citizenship through a private member’s bill.
“Many of us were taken from Africa especially the Gambia where my family is from. You are we and we are you. We do not decide where to be born and you do not decide where to be born. We need to come back together to unify and stop the exploitation of Africans that is taking place every day,” Juliet said, adding: “We are your long lost cousins.”
Ms Ryan expressed gratitude to National Assembly members for their large turnout She further said their next step is to look at how they are going to draft the private member’s bill and who will help in the process. She highlighted that it is high time for Africans to eradicate colonial laws that are meant to divide them. She said the lawmakers have the powers to change some of the colonial laws.
“I hope the Gambia will be the first country in Africa to implement the laws on automatic citizenship,” Ryan said.
Honorable Halifa Sallah, National Assembly Member for Serrekunda, and the secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) said the descendants from Africa were fighting two different battles. One is against slavery and the other for self-determination. He said when they became the majority in the Caribbean, they began the struggle for self-determination and independence.
Hon. Sallah said African descendants were enslaved in America, died due to the color of their skin and they were not recognized as human beings. He added that the descendants were also struggling for their rights to be recognized as human beings.
“The descendants have a right to return to their land of origin,” Honorable Sallah said. He said the African Union must look at each country’s constitution in Africa to ensure that all the elements that are essential to agree on a protocol on how to ensure that those who want to return now can be given the opportunity to do so to any country of their choice.