His Excellency President Alhagie Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh yesterday presided over the celebrations marking the 14th anniversary of the July 22nd military take-over of power in The Gambia. The theme for the celebration this year is "Independence and National Pride."
In a characteristically lengthy speech delivered on the occasion, President Jammeh expressed his belief that despite all the struggle against the forces of colonialism, the notion of Africa's independence is a mistaken one because, in his view, up to now even at the African Union level, African leaders have to depend on the G8 to finance their programmes. "That is why some time ago, I told you that I would never buy a knee pad to depend on NEPAD to develop my country. I will work it out on my own with the help of the Almighty Allah," he said.
President Jammeh hastened to clarify that he is not against any progressive African institution but pointed out that he will hate any institution that is out to strengthen and glorify the spirit of begging. "All the time we Africans have to keep on begging in order to survive and that is why nobody will respect us. If we the African leaders respected ourselves, all the nonsense that are going on today would have stopped," he opined.
According to him, one can only gain the respect of others if one is truly independent, which confers self-confidence, pride and self-respect. "There is no way you can be proud and be dependent. Pride and independence go together and they cannot be separated. How can a country be independent and proud if it is dependent on the benevolence of others?" he queried, adding that Africa's ability to look inwards and depend on itself and the Almighty Allah for its sustenance and development is of unquestionable importance in the present world order. "I don't make speeches just for the mere fact of making public statements. I tell you what we need to do to avert catastrophe tomorrow.
"As long as one is not able to feed him or herself, he or she can never be proud of him or herself and can never be independent. If you cannot be independent, nobody would ever respect you," he added.
In the view of the Gambian leader, what The Gambia and Africa in general need today is self-respect, independence, food self-sufficiency, mutual support in the march forward to regain the lost glory of Africa.
Reflecting on the said African glory, he contended that before the coming of the colonialists, Africa was the richest continent and the most advanced in terms of development, noting that if Africa was a backward continent without resources, Europeans would not have stayed there for 400 years. "It is Africa's wealth, blood and tears that have created the West and is still creating the West. But today how many people care about the welfare of Africans? They pay lip service. That is the reality. I am not against anybody.
"How can we be proud when instead of worshipping God, you worship your fellow human beings. Up to today, Africa is the richest continent in terms of mineral resources. What are we doing about our resources? We allow them still to come and rob us as the case was in The Gambia when Carnegie Minerals told us that they were taking sand when they were taking titanium, iron ore and others," he asserted.
Jammeh however added that he would not blame the masses of Africa but instead blame the leaders of Africa whom he said could have protected their resources and their people if they respected themselves, adding that Africa would not have been synonymous with poverty, disease, AIDS and other things.
Meanwhile President Jammeh's variegated address did not spare the recent indictment of the President of the Republic of Sudan, Omar Hassan El-Bashir, by the International Criminal Court. The president underlined his indignation with the decision, questioning its judiciousness in the face of what he calls the failure to apply the same standards to the people behind the invasion of Iraq. "The International Criminal Court indicted the President of Sudan Omar El-Bashir and issued an arrest warrant for a sitting African President and we know the war criminals in the West. Those who invaded Iraq are all war criminals. They butchered innocent citizens and they killed and today not even a single international institution is condemning them for what is happening. Can there be a war crime against humanity than what is happening in Iraq? Today you have seven million Iraqis who are homeless. Why is it that the International Criminal Court (ICC) only deals with African Presidents. Am not supporting African Presidents that are brutalising their countries but does it have to be the West that will judge us? Can't the African Union judge African heads of state at the court? They were talking about Mugabe and for the first time in the history of the United Nations, an internal matter has gone to the UN Security Council. If we are talking about today, what happens in Iraq today is genocide. Today in Iraq with all their democracy, the oil pipelines are more secure than the women and children in the streets of Baghdad. What type of Democracy is that?"
Among the guests who graced the occasion were the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Guinea Conakry and Senegal. Secretaries of State and members of the Diplomatic Community were also in attendance.