US Ambassador's Independence Day Remarks

Monday, July 07, 2008

The United States Embassy in Banjul last Thursday, July 3rd, hosted a reception to mark the 232nd independence anniversary of the United States of America. The occasion was attended by several government dignitaries including the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Omar Touray; Secretary of State for Youth and Sports, Mr. Sheriff Gomez and former President of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Jawara. The United States Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency Barry Wells and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of The Gambia, addressed the gathering as follow:


Address by the US Ambassador


Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the U.S. Embassy Banjul's celebration of the 232nd anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America. I would like to acknowledge the presence of several representatives of the Gambian Government - Secretaries of State, Honourable Members of the National Assembly and the Judiciary, and other Gambian officials - thank you for taking the time to be here this evening. I would also like to thank the members of the diplomatic and consular corps and our other distinguished guests for joining us.

The Gambia Police Band will now play the national anthems of The Republic of The Gambia and the United States.

I'd like to say a big thank you to the band's director, Commander Bojang, and his fine musicians for their excellent performance this evening.

This year, as I'm sure you've noted, we at the Embassy are celebrating America's Independence a little early, on July 3. But each year, Americans celebrate July 4 as our National Independence Day, because it was on this day in 1776 that our Founding Fathers - including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams - signed the Declaration of Independence. Although it was not until 1783 that the United States actually gained its independence, the date of adoption of the

Declaration of Independence seven years earlier was established as our National Day.

Independence Day is significant because it marks not only the independence of the United States, but also because it is a time to reflect upon the fundamental ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence - that all men are created equal, that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that these rights are to be upheld by democratic form of government.

Throughout America's history, we have viewed these ideals as the foundation of our society and its institutions.

However, as a relatively young nation, it has taken us time to align these ideals with our practices. Standing here in West Africa on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, just

a few weeks after the conclusion of the Roots Homecoming Festival here in The Gambia, we cannot help but be reminded of the painful past of slavery, which was

unfortunately the first link between The Gambia and the United States.

But at the same time, let us remark that even as an imperfect nation, we have faced the negative aspects of our history head on, and rather than forgetting them, we have confronted them. I think what is remarkable about America's story is that our efforts to overcome the pain of the past have resulted in our ability to move from adversity to accomplishment. Throughout our short history, we have sought to improve upon our democratic institutions and practices, using the values of freedom and equality to argue for greater access for all Americans to enjoy the rights laid out 232 years ago. Democracy, after all, is the institutionalization of freedom.

It was the passion of Americans who believed in freedom and the vision of a better future that led to the abolition movement which eventually ended slavery. And just half a century ago, during the civil rights movement, there were those who dared to dream, and who adhered to the principles of universal liberty even when many in our country did not. The hope, talent, and optimism of Americans have expanded the horizons of possibility. Not long ago, Madeleine Albright broke ground as the first woman to serve as Secretary of State. Today we have our second African American Secretary of State, and our first African-American presidential nominee.

While both our nations have progressed so far, The Gambia, like the United States still has work to do. Equal opportunity for women, protection of children, press freedom and support for human rights for all, remain goals that we must continue to pursue. I believe that with principled leadership and a true commitment to freedom and democracy, anything is possible.

Since my arrival in The Gambia in January, the number of people I have met who are strongly committed to justice, good governance, and the rule of law is commendable. It is this shared belief in democracy and freedom that unites The Gambia and the United States. And now, perhaps more than ever, the need for democracy is urgent. We have only to recall the recent crisis in Chad and the current situation in Zimbabwe to observe the grave consequences of undemocratic rule, including assaults on human dignity and the needless loss of human life. It is only through a joint effort to uphold common values that we can stem the flow of such tragedies, and the United States values The Gambia as a partner in these efforts.

I am proud that our relationship with The Gambia has progressed from the dark days of the slave trade into one of mutual respect and shared democratic ideals.

Today, not only are the United States and The Gambia linked by the large Gambian Diaspora resident in America, the considerable Gambian-American presence here, and the ties of the "Roots" experience, we are connected as our two governments contribution of military and police officers who have served and are currently serving

as peacekeepers in Darfur is a clear demonstration of this shared commitment to promoting the ideals of justice and freedom. So well respected are the Gambian forces in Darfur that they were asked to provide security for UN Secretary Ban ki moon and President Jimmy Carter during their visits to Darfur. The United States remains committed to assisting in the continuing professional development of these forces through our military and police education and training programs. I am also appreciative of the Gambian government's ongoing dialogue with the US Embassy on a number of economic, counter-terrorism, and other significant issues of regional and global importance to us both.

Gambians and Americans have much in common, and also learn a great deal from each other, which is evident in the great interest demonstrated in the cross-cultural programs facilitated by the Embassy and other organizations. In recent months I have seen a number of American student groups visiting and studying in The Gambia. I have reached out to these visiting Americans, because I think they embody the spirit of the United States - one of openness to new ideas, discourse, and inspiration. I sincerely believe that all of these relationships, from the diplomatic to the personal, reflect the best in Gambian and American cultures. And in the spirit of our shared commitment to freedom and democracy, we have invited you here to join the celebration tonight in honor of the 232nd anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. Thank you.



Statement by foreign Affairs Minister


We know very well the significance of independence. I would therefore like to convey on behalf of His Excellency the President, Alhagi Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, the government and the people of The Gambia, heartfelt congratulations to you Mr. Ambassador, to the government and people of United States of America on the occasion of the independence anniversary of USA here in Banjul. We should all pause and reflect on the significance of the occasion for both the US and the Gambia. In many ways independence represents freedom to decide on one's own affairs but through history and, more so, in recent years nation states have realised that their destiny are intertwined in such a way that they can only enjoy their freedom in a world that is characterised by genuine partnership, respect for each other and justice.

It is those considerations that underpin The Gambia's relations with the USA and indeed with the wider world. The Gambia enjoys close collaboration with the United States of America in many areas including in the global fight against terrorism.

The Gambia remains committed to the global fight against terrorism. The government of USA will be committed to supporting the efforts of President Jammeh to transform The Gambia's economy to one that is based on relentless subsistence agriculture to one that, to paraphrase the mission statement of Vision 2020, is a trading private and export-oriented agriculture and manufacturing economy that guarantees our collective freedom from want.

With those few words excellencies, ladies and gentlemen may I invite you to join me in praying for a stronger American-Gambian relations that are based on mutual trust, respect and justice. Long live United States of America, long live The Gambia and long live American-Gambian partnership.