President Adama Barrow has spoken about how the Gambia that has lost everything — friends, peace, respect and status in the community of nations — is now on a mission to normalise the abnormal situation.
President Barrow, who spoke at Chatham House in London on the topic “shaping the Gambia’s future: how to build a path to sustainable progress,” said the peace and stability his country nurtured since it attained independence in 1965 eroded in the 22 years of dictatorship. “This affected the economy, and disintegrated the social fabric of the society. Many of the youth left in search of a better life; in most cases through dangerous means, to reach Europe and other parts of the world. The political environment was dangerous for freedom of expression and respect for human rights. Thus, a serious brain drain followed.”
Mr. Barrow said the previous government’s disrespect for the rule of law made the business environment too risky. Destruction of institutions couple with disrespect for systems and procedures had all created care-free attitude in the public service.
As a result of this unfortunate scenario, President Barrow added, forced Gambians to take a decision to define their destiny. He said eight political stakeholders coalesced in 2016, fought and win the electoral fight. President Barrow said his government’s “first priority was to re-open The Gambia to the world, promote human rights and restore freedom of expression. We had to build confidence amongst our partners and prepare a strategy to put The Gambia on the path of sustainable development. In short, we had to right the wrongs in our institutions, systems and procedures. We had to engage in institutional and legal reforms to ensure efficiency in the public service, good governance and progress in national development. My Government’s strategy is now clearly outlined in the National Development Plan 2018-2021.”
The Barrow administration released all political prisoners, set up a review panel on wrongful dismissals and de-congest the Office of the President.
The Gambia had since strove to return to international organisations. Belonging to these communities is a necessity for a country that had been trying to reconstruct. Barrow said this year’s Commonwealth meeting theme (Common future) embodies the spirit of togetherness – key for effective change. “This has been demonstrated when Gambians came together to change a dictatorship, which for two decades, rubbed the country’s resources. My Government inherited just over one month of import cover, thus its dependence on international support to revitalise its economy. Therefore, developed countries should provide improved access to their markets; introduce and promote measures to liberalise trade, particularly in processed agricultural and manufactured goods.”
President Barrow said poverty, an offshoot of dictatorship, has has subjected Gambians to abject poverty and driven our youth to illegal migration. As a result, the government prioritises youth employment by providing the opportunities to participate in socio-economic activities, training and entrepreneurship.
President Barrow said a government that inherited only a month’s import cover and exhumed in debt needs support. His government is trying to diversify the Gambia’s economy through agriculture, tourism and fisheries.