Foreign Minister Dr Tangara tells distinguished audience at UN Headquarters

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

“I chose to stand with my people in support of the rule of law, freedom and democracy...,” Foreign Minister Dr Tangara tells distinguished audience at UN Headquarters

In his acceptance speech of the United Nations Prestigious 2019 Population Award conferred on him on 20th June, 2019, the Gambia’s Foreign Minister Dr Mamadou Tangara reminded distinguished audience at the UN Headquarters that during 2016 political crisis he chose to stand with the people of The Gambia in interest of the rule of law, freedom and democracy, peace, national pride and national unity.

Below is full text of Foreign Minister Dr. Tangara’s Award acceptance statement.

My dear brother, H.E. Mr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Population Award Committee,

The Hon. Minister of Women Affairs, Children, and Social Welfare of the Republic of The Gambia Mrs. Fatou Kinteh;

Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina Mohammed,

Executive Director of UNFPA and Secretary of the Committee for the United Nations Population Award, Dr. Natalia Kanem,

Distinguished Fellow Laureates, Mrs. Annie Fatu Nushann and Mrs. Edith Washington-Garr of the National Peace Hut Women of Liberia,

Distinguished Committee Members,

Dear colleagues, Family, and friends,

“I bring you greetings of joy on this momentous day in the history of my personal and professional life. Before I proceed, allow me to thank the Almighty God most profoundly for all His favour and blessings. By extension, with much honour and gratitude, I also thank my wife,parents, family, compatriots, colleagues, friends and well-wishers for my accomplishments, most especially for this award. Let me confess that the glory of the day may be mine, but the merit belongs to all of us collectively.

“The joy of being recognised as a recipient of the noble and prestigious UN Population Award 2019 has compelled me to recall my humble beginnings as a boy under the care and guidance of my unlettered parents in The Gambia - a relatively small country thousands of kilometres away from this audience of distinguished personalities.

“With mixed feelings, I pay homage to my late parents for various reasons. I pay tribute to my mother for being a unique source of motivation, because, in African society, the success of a sibling is perceived to depend on the mother’s moral and spiritual uprightness, sincerity and dedication to God and family. In the same vein, I pay my respects to my father as an unrivalled source of inspiration, because, in our culture, the father builds the foundations of hard work, security, honesty, moral authority, blessings and development for a male child to become an accomplished member of society. However, African culture duly places as much weight and value on the family institution, both nucleus and extended, as it does on the wider community and the world at large; hence, it was for my mother’s tenderness and warmth that I learned to love, care and share, and it was due to my father’s wisdom that I was sent to school, which I resented initially but accepted later on. I resented going to school, because it had no significance or meaning to me at the time. I complied, however, because Dad had promised to buy me a bicycle if I worked hard, which I did. Incidentally, that promise was fulfilled by a friend not long ago.”

“In retrospect, I am truly thankful to my father, for I have lived to understand and appreciate that the wisdom of an old man is priceless. If it were not for him, how could I have chosen the path of selfless service to nation and to humanity at large, regardless of race, creed or faith? How could I have come to terms with, appreciate or proclaim the concept and intricacies of the sanctity of human life or human dignity; or, what human worth and human rights entail; or, the essence of peace, liberty, unity, love, mutual respect, harmonious coexistence and care for the environment? I have grown to understand that whether these are expressed through diplomacy or some other means or terminologies is irrelevant; what matters is recognising and upholding all these concepts and universal values in all circumstances and in the best interest of humanity and global peace.

“This brief background symbolically portrays the fertile ground from which emerged the offshoots that subsequently evolved over time to colour my character, beliefs, values, philosophy, disposition and worldview. The implication or message is that the survival and progress of our population as a collective unit and humankind as a species inescapably hinges on living together and relating to one another as one family - this is the human family, not a race of rivals and enemies.

“Specific to the occasion, my relentless commitment to service over the past twenty five (25) years has taught me significant lessons on the supremacy of human life and human dignity that the Population Award was created to champion. The relevance of the Award continues to re-commit individuals, groups, associations and civil society organisations around the world to refocus and redouble their efforts in the face of political uncertainties to prevent conflict through preventive methods of diplomacy: where there is conflict or war, to resort to conflict resolution; in contexts of development, to apply leadership skills to empower and orient the youths globally; in the face of neglect and oppression, to protect and reassure the weak and elderly; and, in circumstances of inequity, to create inclusive communities for women and other shades of marginalised groups for the realisation of their fundamental rights and full potentials.

“These efforts should project and be constitutive of the essence, the core values and the cardinal principles of our individual and collective commitment to safeguarding the global population and avoiding a humanitarian crisis. A wise man once counselled me, saying: “Extinguish fire whenever and wherever it breaks out, for the fire you kindle or ignore may ultimately burn you.” In short, we must act and serve to save.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

“My professional life has led me to work with and work for several institutions both nationally and internationally, more particularly in the fields of education, diplomacy and development. In the past twenty-five (25) years of my service for country and people, my career has not only brought me accomplishments but also joy and satisfaction, which I would not have achieved without the love, support and commitment of my family, the good friends around me and the people I serve.

“With humility and great joy, therefore, I dedicate this Award to my dear father, wife and kids, friends and, above all, the Gambian people, in the name of whom and for whom I am recognised for having stood firm to serve as a determined, principled and sincere representative. Even in the face of career uncertainty, I refused to lose faith in my principles and values. I chose to stand with my people in support of the rule of law, freedom and democracy, peace, national pride and national unity. How I wish the Gambian experience resonates positively worldwide for the welfare of humankind! “

Ladies and gentlemen,

“All of these may sound heroic and courageous, but I did not act alone, and it would be gross injustice not to mention a few out of an inexhaustible list of friends and colleagues who stood by me and supported me in various ways, especially during the dire and risky moments of the well-known political deadlock in our country.

“Durante el embrolloen Gambia, un país que se convirtióennoticiaen una semana, pasando de un sueño a una pesadilla. Pasamos de ser el orgullo de África a convertirnosen la burla de todos. 

“It is now my honour to express my gratitude to all the colleagues in New York. I would also like to salute the Group of Gambian Ambassadors that joined me in December 2016 to support the will of our people in The Gambia during those trying days. The bonds that united us have, once again, brought me together with my brother Ambassador and Permanent Representative of The Gambia to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Lang Yabou, whom I admire for the manner and candor with which he continues to represent our country; “

“La solidaridadinternacionales la ternura de los pueblo”Ernesto “Che”Guevara.

ECOWAS Member States under the leadership H.E.Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,former President of the Republic of Liberia, Mauritania, the Kingdom of Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, the African Union to mention but a few.”  

“The former Secretary-General, H.E. Ban Ki-moon, and his successor, H.E. Antonio Guterres, for leading and pursuing the underlying objectives for establishing the United Nations. I cannot think of a better example than the peaceful settlement of conflicts as envisioned by the Charter of the UN, and as demonstrated in the case of The Gambia.”It has been said that the United Nations was not created in order to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.”Dag Hammarskjöld;”

“My brothers and sisters of the African Group of Ambassadors, particularly, H.E. Mr. Fode Seck, for the important role he playedduring Senegal’s membership of the Security Council to support the will of the people of The Gambia;”

“H.E.Samantha Power, the former Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for her support before, during and after the impasse; 

“The former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, H.E. Jeffrey David Feltman, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, H.E. Mr. Mohammad Ibn Chambas, for their role in ensuring that peace prevailed over conflict;

“My brother, the former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations and Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) in 2016, H.E. Mr. Macharia Kamau, for endorsing my call for the engagement of the PBC platform;

“I thank his successor, my friend, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr. Cho Tae-yul, for leading a new direction in the work of the PBC when it mattered most, and I continue to be thankful for and appreciative of the continued engagement of the PBC Members including the current Chair and his Predecessor, H.Es Giullermo Fernandez de Soto of Colombia and Ion Jinga of Romania respectively;

“H.E. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, Marc Andre Blanchard for his foresight by calling for the respect of the verdict of the Gambian people before the impasse;

“I sincerely thank the Assistant-Secretary-General for the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), Mr. Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, and his able team for their unwavering commitment to making The Gambia a successful model of preventive diplomacy;

“It will be remiss of me not to recognise the moral leadership of my senior brother and friend, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide, Under-Secretary-General Adama Dieng;

“Similar recognition goes to Mr. Halifa Sallah, the Honourable Member of the National Assembly of The Gambia, with whom I collaborated in the interest of our people and country;

“My appreciation goes to my friends Mr. Abdelati Habek and Mr. Jean-Christophe Bertrand of the Diplomatic Foundation of Morocco;Mr. Kofi Apenteng, of the Africa America Institute (AAI);Dr. Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri of the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption  Center (ROLACC)M. Alioune Badara BEYE, of the Association des Ecrivains du Senegal (A.E.S), for their moral support;

“Last but not the least in my litany of acknowledgments I would like to mention Bertrand Njanja Fassu, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Peace building Support Office; Mr. Adekunle Adeniyi, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative; and Mr. Amadou Jaiteh, Counsellor and Legal Adviser of the Permanent Mission of The Gambia to the United Nations.”

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Mindful of the moral, technical and financial support and efforts invested in The Gambia, I am happy to share that we have made meaningful gains of peace and stability, and there is renewed optimism for all Gambians as manifested in our three-year National Development Plan (2018-21), which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Transitional Justice Programme is being implemented along  the Security Sector Reform. All geared towards layinga strong foundation  for a just,prosperous, and equitable society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Population and development issues are as relevant and critically important today as ever. They play an integral role in determining many of the crosscutting development opportunities and challenges our societies face, and directly affect the quality of life of millions of our women, girls and young people. Recognizing this, The Gambia has made concrete commitments to include legislation against sexual and gender based violence, early marriage and female genital mutilation, to name a few.

“Beyond this, we are actively putting resources into empowering Gambians, particularly by recognising that there can be no better investment for the future of our nation than those made in our young people.The Gambia has adopted the African Union framework of harnessing the demographic dividend,and the National Development Plan (NDP)namesyouth empowerment as one of its priorities. The NDP is implementing holistic investment in young people through the four key pillars of jobs, education, health, including sexual and reproductive health, and human rights. As host to two major AU Youth conferences – the African Youth Charter, adopted in Banjul in 2006, and the Banjul+10 Conference held in 2016, we are determined to continue providing platforms for young people to have a genuine seat at the table and advocate for themselves and their futures.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank UNFPA and its Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem for its lifesaving but often underestimated work across the world on population issues, and for supporting women, girls and young people. I ask that all governments give UNFPA their support at the highest level. I am grateful for the strong support to the Government and the people that the UNFPA team in The Gambia continues to provide. On this, the 50th anniversary of UNFPA, The Gambia commits to playing an active role in the ongoing commemoration of 25years since the International Conference on Population and Development took place in Cairo – ICPD25. We desire to host high-level events on population issues at the upcoming UN General Assembly, and look forward to participating and engaging at the highest levelin the historic Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 taking place in November.

“I must pay respect to the immediate past Executive Director of UNFPA, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who died in active service working for the empowerment of women and young people in our world. As an African, I am immensely proud of the achievements of this great son of the continent. May his departed soul rest in perfect peace and may his legacy live on.

“Before concluding, I wish to re-echo how profoundly moved and touched I am by the honor of this noble Award. There is no gift I could appreciate more. I am immensely grateful also for the opportunity to be present here with you in person. I thank you for it on my behalf and on behalf of the entire Gambian nation. Indeed, without the privilege of representing The Gambia here from 2013 to 2018, there would be no accomplishment or recognition of this sort.”

Mesdames, Mesdemoiselles, Messieurs,

“Je ne sauraiterminercettelitanie de remerciements sans rendrehommage à des maîtres de sentier qui ontilluminénotreparcours, parseméd’embûches, ensemant des graines de lumières. Leursenseignements et leursconseilsn’ontcessé de nous rappeler de ne pas faire l’amalgame entre sacerdoce et sinécure entre les attributions et les privilègesliésauxnombreusesfonctions qui nous  sontconfiées.

“Je voudraisnommer le professeur Jean Dominique Penel, le professeurLilyanKesteloot et le professeurSory Kamara et tous les autresenseignants que j’airencontré sur mon cheminementintellectuel.

“Notre souci premier est de servir et veiller à ce que toutesemence de paroles soittraduite par unemoissond’actes.

“Finally, I leave you with these thoughts: We are who we serve, and we are nothing without those we represent. I yearn not to be glorified for the position I occupied, but I pray to be remembered for the service I rendered in the position I occupied.”

I thank you with eternal appreciation.

Issued by the Communication Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad