The Gambia clocks fifty-five years today as an Independent Sovereign State responsible for managing its affairs without any external interference. Celebrating the anniversary of this historic event should trigger thoughts to guide us redefine our individual roles as citizens of this nation in order to situate and reposition our motherland better on the global stage.
As this is our National Day, it is a moment to unite and deliberate on national issues, and not on partisan conflicts and interests. As true sons and daughters of The Gambia, this is a moment to reflect on the implications of Independence; not only political independence, but also social and economic independence.
Having emerged from decades of under-development, slowed progress, retarded growth and dictatorship, the time has come for us to reflect objectively and selflessly on what needs to be done differently for better results. Thus, we should ask ourselves: What does putting the national interest first really imply? How can we work together to address all the development deficits that continue to affect every Gambian, directly or indirectly?
As we mark the last Independence Anniversary of this decade, the opportunity has come for us to turn a new leaf by beginning the next decade much better, with renewed patriotic zeal in the Third Republic. As we prepare for the next series of national elections, now is the time to demonstrate what Independence means to us.
Let us demonstrate that we are capable of managing our affairs by accommodating our differences, celebrating our successes, providing feedback with discipline, and expressing our opinions with respect and dignity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This day is important because it also reminds us of our pledge in the National Anthem, and underscores the need “to live in unity, freedom and peace each day…” Therefore, we must be aware of all divisive speeches, actions, sentiments and concepts that may lead to social divisions in our communities.
Whilst ethnicity contributes significantly to our richly blended culture, and stands out as a diverse source of strength, if weaponised for selfish reasons, ethnicity has devastating consequences. It has plunged many nations into protracted unrest, destruction and great instability. Party politics, which is often at the root of most deadly ethnic clashes, must not be based on ethnicity. Instead, politics should be driven by a sound vision, appropriate programmes and dedicated service in the best interest of one’s nation.
The electorate should affiliate with the party that represents the national interest, and ensure that we continue to live in peace and harmony in a cohesive, democratic society where our collective development aspirations can be fulfilled.
Our National Anthem has summed up the message perfectly for us. It brings our attention to doing the right thing, and emphasises, I quote, “Let justice guide our actions towards the common good, And join our diverse peoples to prove man’s brotherhood.”
Ethnic rivalry is dreadful. Accordingly, I urge all of us to renew our commitment and “pledge our firm allegiance,” to the nation, because The Gambia belongs to all of us.
Politics is not about the language we speak or the ethnic group we identify with. It is about the nation and its development and future.
We all have the moral and civic obligation of safeguarding the future of this country and remember, in the process, that history will judge us, sooner or later.
This should compel us maintain peace and stability by respecting the rule of law, and allowing justice to take its course.
Today, we can all look back and, with relief, celebrate and embrace democracy, good governance and the rule of law. This is highlighted by the political excitement that has gripped the nation, resulting in a series of useful dialogue, across-party discussions, and bipartisan solidarity and collaboration.
The nationwide consultations on crucial national structures, policies and instruments continue to open new avenues, and widen the options for choice, diversity and scope. This is unprecedented in The Gambia!
Never have Gambians been given the space to participate so genuinely and passionately as witnessed recently on the draft Constitution, the Commissions, the Presidency, the economy and various other aspects of governance.
Never has the Legislature been as independent, as open, as free and as lively as it is today. This is progress, and it is political development!
As free citizens in an Independent State, information is accessed readily on radio, television and other media outlets without censure. Indeed, Gambians are truly enjoying political independence!
Socially, cultural freedom continues to enable us to showcase our diversity and tolerance for one another. These are aspects of my Government’s achievements, which we have registered collectively with all Gambians. Government will continue to ensure that such freedoms are guaranteed and sustained.
Economic freedom is ideal, but we live in an interdependent world where nations and organisations must depend on one another. This is the essence of diplomacy and international relations. However, it is incumbent upon us to exploit our talents and abilities to be innovative and productive, and to initiate or contribute to value addition processes. It is up to us to examine our circumstances, expose our shortcomings and challenges, with a view to resolving them.
The responsibility is collective for us to create jobs, create opportunities, create income for economic development and generate capacity to develop holistically.
The key challenges that continue to affect this nation can be solved only if we reconcile our differences, maintain peace and stability, law and order, progress and development. Fundamentally, we must avoid acting against the national interest.
As Gambians, every one of us has citizenship rights. With consistency, I reassure you all of my resolve to perform my functions to the fullest. As President, I have legal authority to act justly; as a leader, I owe it to the people to keep the nation together and safe; and, as a parent, I have the moral duty to preserve the nation for the younger generation and those unborn, whose rights we must recognise now.
Our oaths of office bind us to God and the Constitution, and our mandates and rules of engagement bind us ethically and professionally to the people and the State. This applies to all public officials and across all state institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The major stumbling block to development is the bulk and mix of resources at our disposal. The options to address the inadequacies centre on innovation, industry, productivity and partnering with others, internally and externally.
We must all strive to fend for ourselves, feed ourselves, and muster courage to entrench independence and cooperation in our sub-cultures; whether at home, in the community or in our institutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Lessons learnt from the “Meet the People’s Tour” have strengthened me to strive harder to accelerate the pace of our development. However, every one of us has a stake, a role and the responsibility to act as a constructive agent of change and development. We have to utilise our abilities and potential constructively, apply ourselves to the tasks of nation building, and avoid indifference and dependency.
Up to 2021, my Government will continue to implement the National Development Plan vigorously. We will introduce new projects, and attend to the people’s needs. Roads, energy, water, sanitation, infrastructure and technology for production will attract top priority. Employment, youth and gender issues will be closely linked to such priorities. In all of these, the private sector and non-state operatives have an equal or complementary role to play.
This year marks the forerunner of the 2021 Presidential Election. While gearing up for this, it is most necessary that we exercise restraint, remain disciplined and maintain the peace. Let us not plunge the nation into chaos and disorder. We must remember what we have gone through and, therefore, be steadfast in upholding the values and practices that encourage positive thought and action. The surest way to success is unity, resisting the temptation to ignore our noble values and warding off agitation, no matter where it comes from.
We should also be firm and resolute whenever we take a decision on something, but should be prepared to shift our positions whenever there are better alternatives.
I urge you, the schoolchildren and students, to focus on your education. Education and skills unlock the doors to development and good citizenship. Work hard today, and reap the benefits tomorrow. Do not allow yourselves to be distracted; instead, strive hard for your future well-being.
Remember that children are more vulnerable to different forms of violence. They are trafficked, abused and even used as child soldiers to fight and kill in unjust civil wars, or serve as suicide bombers. Do not allow anyone to use you for such deadly, cowardly and evil acts.
I commend all parents and teachers for guiding and taking care of the children. Government appreciates your efforts, and we will continue to invest in education to ensure that the youth realise their full potential to serve their families, nation and themselves when they grow up.
Teachers have an honourable job to do; thus, they should work honourably and effectively, and maximise the time they spend on task. Finance is not the only motivation in this noble job.
Teachers have the responsibility of preparing a whole generation of learners, who look up to them for values of integrity, discipline, trustworthiness and patriotism. Children learn to respect rules and regulations at school; hence, teachers have the burden of doing the right thing for the children to emulate early in their lives.
While we appreciate the efforts of the Education Ministries, we encourage them to support both the teaching and administrative staff in the system for better performance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Turning to the Security Services, I thank and commend them, as the pride of the nation, for their impressive outfit and remarkable performance.
We salute them for their impeccable parades, commendable peace keeping missions, humble and generous community service, as well as their acute alertness and sacrifice to keep the peace.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To all those present, I express deep gratitude for the turnout, and for making the occasion so colourful. I am thankful also to the entire nation for keeping the peace and their cooperation with my government.
We are grateful too to the international community for their support – financially, technically and morally. The list includes all friendly nations, partners and organisations that continue to supplement or complement our development efforts.
I wish you all a very joyful Fifty-fifth Independence Anniversary Celebration.
God bless us all, and Long Live The Gambian Nation!