By Dawda Baldeh
A group of African Descendant residing in The Gambia urges National Assembly Members to consider their citizenship plea. The group said they are home comers and they want the National Assembly to consider their automatic citizenship plea. All we wanted is once we come to the Gambia we be seen as Africans and not aliens. This simply is because we were forcefully taken away from home to foreign lands against the will of our ancestors.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Juliet Ryan said it is high time for people to denounce all negative effects of colonial rules as it is only designed to separate Africans.
Our plea for automatic citizenship does not means that, we be given full fledge citizenship on arrival but rather we want to be seen as Africans and not strangers on our own continent. Where former President Jawara can give automatic citizenships to 20 African Descendants back in the 1980s, and similar thing accorded some American African Descendants by former President Jammeh; why can’t President Barrow do a similar thing, Ryan asked.
“It’s a great disappointment to many of us and we realized we needed to have an official voice so we formed the Council of African Descendants (COAD) with the purpose to raise our voices,” she explained.
According to media reports, African Descendant residents in The Gambia that have decided to come to a place called home have permanently being raising concerns about their non-inclusion in the new 2020 draft constitution which was rejected by lawmakers.
Juliet Ryan (Nyancho Kujabi) said they have invested sizeable amount in The Gambia and their historical family lineage still remained Africa, we’re Gambians and our ancestors were enslaved and never able to return, so we are completing the circle to come home. “Now we feel as though we have been forgotten about in terms of the constitution” she said.
“We felt that as a Caribbean and American community, people who come back from the Diaspora, it is essential to do something to help smooth the progress of people coming into The Gambia. We needed to do this in a constructive way,” she said.
“Despite the report drafted by the Constitutional Review Commission including Section 188 that relates to an Exception Clause for African Descendants of the Enslaved. Section 188 suggests a reduction of the 1997 Constitutional requirement of 15 years for Citizenship by way of Naturalisation to 2-4 years.”
She said their ancestors were taken from the African villages by the colonialist to work on their plantations and other agricultural fields, in the process some were killed, while places were also burn, She explained that they (African Descendants) suffered a lot.
Madam Ryan said, the story of Kunta Kinteh need to be look at so that people will recognize that slavery was existing and people were force to displace.
She said Gambia have the longest period for one to be granted automatic citizenship in the world, 15 years is a long period.
She added that the automatic citizenship they are asking for is a two year program she explained.
She said if they come to the Banjul International airport as home comers, they are only given 14-21 days to stay, for them that is not ideal and looks likes they are not very welcomed.
“We come to The Gambia for us to be considered as people of the country and not as foreigners.” The country is where our ancestors were forced to leave. My grandma will tell me that her mother will tell he that they came from a country in Africa called “KAMBIA”
“We have suffered and suffered and we are not coming here not to feel rejected,” Juliet Ryan said. “We come here to feel wanted back into our families automatically.”
She further said, “we are home comers and we are not foreigners.” “We want to be accepted as citizens of this country and not as foreigners.”
She said the pain they are going through is real and people fail to understand their proposals. When asked about how supportive Gambian is to their proposals, Madam Ryan said they are hoping that Gambians will now see them as their families and not as strangers.
“We are African returnees who want to be welcome back to our land of origin.”
Adrian Ryan (Hatib Kujabi) said they are appealing to the members of the National Assembly because they are the lawmakers to look at some of the provisions in the draft constitution which called for a reduction of automatic citizenship from 15 years to 2-4 years.
Ryan said, “We respect the laws of the country.” He said, he noticed that some of the historical context of Africa is being missing and has completely gone missing on the continent.
“We forget the fact that our ancestors were taken away,” Adrian Ryan (Hatib Kujabi) said. He added that they just given out their proposals and is left to the lawmakers to look at it and come up with a decision.
Ryan said some people have drawn conclusions without understanding what their mission is. He added that they engage lot of parliamentarians to look at their proposals and some have been very supportive.
The African returnee urged that people should stop spreading misleading information to the public. “We are not lawmakers and we cannot be lawmakers. All what we need is for them to help us with our proposals.”
He stated that when they were invited to the National Assembly to attend a meeting, they have put it to the National Assembly members to consider the issue of automatic citizenship and some have welcome the idea.
“We are Africans and we want people to see us as Africans and not as foreigners.
He said the African Union stated that we are automatically Africans and we should be automatically seen as Africans. We choose Gambia because is a country that we want to be a citizen of and the country is known for welcoming its people.
Ryan indicated that COAD is an organisation that is real and exists, saying they are people coming over to this country to settle and contribute significantly to the development of the Gambia.
The home coming African descendant expressed fear that now they are found in an awkward situation where their contributions to national development is almost amounting to nothing in the eyes of the people who are in power.
The issue, he said, came to the fore when they started to look at the new Draft Constitution and what it meant for them as people resettling in the country.
“The constitution basically labeled us as aliens, as it has no reference to who we are. Whereas places like Ghana these people are welcome back with open arms and given automatic citizenship. Here Gambians have to reaslise that we are you and you are us. We were taken away from Africa.”