Following a successful Commonwealth Summit here in London and forging bilateral and multilateral relations with world leaders and organizations, President Barrow of the Republic of the Gambia met the Gambian community in London on the 20th April 2018. It was a unique occasion the Gayytymbians were meeting with their leader in a friendly and convivial atmosphere. The Commonwealth Summit is significant in many respects.
First, it heralds the end of tyranny and the dawn of a new political era characterized by the rule of law, human rights and respect for human dignity. Second, it ends the self-imposed isolation of the Gambia from the international community for more than two decades. Third, it tells the whole world that the Gambia has a story to tell and share. The story is that the Gambians were able in their collective endeavor to defeat a monstrous tyrant and forced him into exile without any blood shed or damage. Fourth, it is a story that the Gambia is open to all those who would like to invest in the Gambia in all sorts of ways. Finally, the Summit is an opportunity for the Gambia to renew and strengthen its relations with its traditional allies and explore new development partners.
Reflecting on the statements made by different leaders at this Meeting and listening keenly to the Speeches of both President Barrow and Honorable Lawyer Darboe, one can say that the new Government has achieved a lot and has opportunities notwithstanding there are challenges that lie ahead.
There are many achievements one can enumerate, but I think the fundamental one for me will be the attainment of freedom. Freedom is key to any meaningful development. With freedom people can be innovate and creative. With freedom people can excel and can do extraordinary things. With freedom, we break sycophancy and fear. With freedom, we can create ideas that galvanize societies. Freedom is an inalienable right and sacred. No one should be deprived of it on grounds of religion, race or ethnicity. The other thing is peace and that we should not take for granted. We should develop and nurture. The stories of Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Libya, Yemen to name a few are vivid and clear. No doubt freedoms come with responsibilities and obligations. As good citizens, we should all make efforts to entrench the peace we enjoy and should not allow it to be ruined. Another achievement is the revitalization of the Gambia Foreign Policy after years of isolation and stagnation. This new diplomatic revitalization is testified by the official rejoining of the Gambia to the Commonwealth and the warm welcome President Barrow received in London. It is hoped that the Chief of the Gambian Diplomacy Honourable Darboe will be engaging in robust foreign policy by exploring new partners within Africa, Far East, the Arab world and beyond. I also believe that the economy has shown signs of recovery. It is worth-noting that the appointment of the veteran teacher and civil servant Mr. Habibou Drammeh as Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service is significant. He is serious, knowledgeable and down-to-earth. I am sure, he will restore the confidence of the populace in the civil service of the Gambia that used to be the envy of the whole Africa. Overall, the Barrow Team is competent and they are expected to measure up to the high expectations Gambians have. Indeed, the opportunities that lie ahead are many particularly the goodwill nationally and internationally should be made full use of without any relent.
Inevitably, there are challenges but they can turn into assets if dealt with judiciously. For me the fundamental challenge is how to heal the wounded country. The mental trauma and the psychological wounds are deep and they are more difficult to fix. I have referred to the concept of human antistructure as opposed to physical infrastructure. I hope people will head to this stark distinction. Policy makers seem to more concerned about the latter than the former. They are both equally important. Victims of atrocities and human rights violations and their families should be rehabilitated and compensated in the most befitting manner. There is no doubt, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Ministry of Justice are doing their homework. Another challenge is to find ways to promote social and inter-tribal harmony in the country. I also here emphasise as in other articles the idea of Gambianess. Finally, there is a need to engage religious leaders in the nation-building and the idea of inter-faith dialogue refereed to Muhammad Iqbal as Islamic cosmopolitanism and Edward Said as Clash of Ignorance and not Clash of Civilisations.
I believe strongly that the new trajectory the New Gambia has taken will bring about positive changes. I hope with cross-fertilization of ideas we can together move our homeland forward.