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Jammeh blames Africa's woes on leadership, as he opens 10th edition of Roots Festival

Feb 7, 2011, 12:20 PM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

President Yahya Jammeh has spoken strongly against the lack of peace and stability in Africa, blaming the continent’s current predicament on what he termed as the lack of good leadership, and the will to get rid of warlords.

"We have no reason to be poor in Africa, because the Almighty Allah has given us all the natural resources we need. What we need to bring about Africa's lost glory, that attracted other continent's to come to Africa, which ended in slavery and colonialism, is the fact that Africans were united, there were fewer wars, Africa was better administered, and the natural resources were used to the benefit of the people," he said.

Jammeh, who was speaking on Saturday at the opening of the 10th edition of the International Roots Homecoming Festival held at the Arch 22 grounds in Banjul, said that the African continent today has more resources than ever before, but what it lacks is good leadership and the will to get rid of warlords.

According to him, there is no way that the continent can develop in the absence of peace.

"Each time we fight each other, our resources benefit those people that are not supposed to benefit from our resources to our own detriment. Peace and stability is a sine-qua-non for the socio-economic development of Africa, so as to regain our lost glory," he said, adding that it is unfortunate that being an African today is automatically synonymous with being poor and wretched.

The Roots Festival marks the celebration of varied cultures of the African people, and serves as a forum where Africans in the Diaspora and Africans on the continent interact and learn about each other. The week-long festival also provides participants the opportunity to gain an insight into African history and socio-economic strides and challenges.

President Jammeh stated that, for 15 years, his government has nurtured the International Roots Homecoming Festival with the purpose of building closer ties with people of African descent the world over, and to make them feel that The Gambia, in particular and Africa in general, is their true home.

He noted that without cultural understanding, there cannot be trust, and without trust, there is no way people can have mutual respect, adding that most of the problems people have today in the world is a matter of cultural misunderstanding.

"If we know each other's culture, we will be able to understand each other better, and we will be able to live in peace, because the main objective and pre-occupation of my government is the promotion of harmony among nations and peoples, irrespective of your race, religion, culture or where you come from," he remarked.

In his view, the Roots Festival encourages the sharing of values and experiences, as well as appreciating Africa's rich and unique cultural heritage. He further noted that the festival also provides an opportune moment to remind ourselves about the daunting challenges that we face, in our collective drive to transform the African continent into a basket of hope, economic prosperity, peace and dignity.

President Jammeh further stated that Gambians wish to demonstrate to the rest of Africa, and the whole of humanity, that The Gambia will not be left behind in the crusade to unite Africa and Africans.

"This festival should be an opportune moment for all of us to make a wholehearted rededication of ourselves to the great ideals of Pan Africanism, African unity and freedom from all forms of injustice," he added.

For him, the project of African unity cannot be completed without the significant impact of Africans living in the Diaspora. "This", he went on, "is precisely why we always value their participation in the Roots Festival, as well as other cultural festivals."

Jammeh further asserted that if the African continent is able to mobilise the efforts, resources and talents of its children everywhere, it would be a supper-power in substance and output.

"I'm not talking about supperpower in the context of military power, but a superpower in the context of being the best human being that lives in peace, and welcomes all of humanity irrespective of where you come from," he emphasised.

The Gambian leader called on Africans to unite for the betterment of the continent, noting that "it is a daunting challenge for us to be united, because the barriers that separated us in the first place are still in place".