Jul 21, 2008, 8:02 AM
Distinguished Viewers and Listeners
We are thankful to the Almighty Allah for the rich blessings showered on us and for granting us the divine favour of celebrating the 48th anniversary of The Gambia’s attainment of Independence from British colonial rule. This is a day we look forward to, with joy and optimism, as it consciously rekindles in us the proud feeling of being in charge of our own affairs and our destiny in ways we consider best as a nation.
Inspired by the sense of accomplishment, hope and elation that go with the occasion let me take time to welcome very heartily our illustrious friends, brothers and sisters who have travelled long distances to add their presence to the grandeur of the occasion. To each of them I say, on behalf of my Government and the people of The Gambia: welcome to the Smiling Coast of Africa, and thank you for coming to celebrate with us. We entreat you to feel at home in our dear motherland.
It is barely two months when Gambians spontaneously demonstrated their vehement and uncompromising opposition to conditions that the European Union wanted to impose on the Gambian nation. The spontaneity of the solidarity marches and the reactions that erupted, involving all categories of society is symbolic of the significance Gambians attach to their dignified existence as a sovereign nation and the degree of patriotism and political maturity that marks Gambian society today. It is in sync with this wave of developments and patriotic manifestations that the theme chosen for this year’s celebration is “National Sovereignty and Patriotism in Nation Building.”
Nations are defined by their citizens in relation to the common identity, sense of direction, sets of interests and other peculiar traits that bind them. Taking this further, holding a nationality connotes belonging to a peculiar stock of people with a distinct way of life within a definite geographical area, all of which define their multiple contexts. The relevance of our existence and, therefore, our identities are inextricably linked to those contexts. This accounts for differences in our value systems and cultural heritages.
In simple terms, national sovereignty denotes independence, right to self-determination and pursuit of a common destiny and construction of socio-economic development programmes and aspirations based on shared values, philosophies and principles. Against this backdrop, it is in the interest of all citizens, and for the sake of our progeny, that we must stand united to defend and protect one another in accordance with this understanding.
Like the founding fathers of independent Africa, who literally fought for their freedom and, subsequently, established the Organisation of African Unity, which we have now transformed into the African Union, we risked our lives on 22nd July 1994 to liberate The Gambia in order to build it and let it shine as a sovereign nation. We risked our lives neither to sell the country nor betray the people to any other nation or grouping. Similarly, when we established the Civic Education Panel in the early years of the Gambian revolution to educate the citizens of The Gambia, the objective was clear: educate the people for nation building. Today, it is heartening to note that this crucial development has paid dividend, and that Gambians are politically aware and mature enough not only to know their rights, but also to stand up against any attempt to violate such rights whenever the need arises.
Over the past eighteen years, my Government has been consistent in ensuring that the Gambian nation enjoys a respectable and dignified status within the global community. In view of the radical development initiatives implemented, we can now boast of ultramodern and appropriate infrastructure; more relevant and stronger institutions, better distilled and robust policies and programmes, as well as more functional and productive socio-economic structures. The result of all these are greener opportunities and prospects for all Gambians. Nationally, we are better organized and united, internationally, the image and status of The Gambia has changed, as we are more active on the world stage than ever before. Such successes have not gone unnoticed outside the shores of this Land. Thus, there will be continual attempts to disrupt these positive trends and undermine the fabric of our social life.
Distinguished Viewers and Listeners
The history of this world is blighted by incessant acts of exploitation, domination, suppression, discrimination and, of late, conditions tied to hidden agendas; hence, the emergence of structured resistance and revolutions that are guided by emancipatory ideologies and radical socio-political projects. The lesson is that all peoples must take into their hands the protection and furtherance of their interests, resources, lives and sovereignty as they consider it fit. This also goes for Gambians. No one else can determine our destiny for us, and no one will come to build the Gambian nation for us without any hidden motive. In opting for responses to external forces, we must distinguish between the honest and genuine friends of The Gambia and those who seek to embark on expansionist caprices. Therefore, we are thankful to the true friends and allies of The Gambia, and wish to reassure them of our support and cooperation.
One wonders sometimes how certain myopic nations and regional bodies think and behave. The world must know that Gambians are not politically blind nor gullible and naive enough to swallow whatever the West metes out to us. We will not be dictated to, and we call on all progressive and patriotic Africans to defy all forms of foreign domination and devote their souls and energies to the Almighty Allah and nation building.
We must not be told what laws to enact or abrogate, as we experienced lately. In The Gambia, there is equality in all aspects: equality before the law and in relation to opportunities. This did not exist during colonial rule. As a matter of common sense, the descendants of former colonial masters, slave traders and armed robbers that pillaged Africa and other continents yesterday, cannot give lessons on Governance to any African country. Certainly not The Gambia and Gambian people would not accept such insolence.
We subscribe to mutual respect among nations for peaceful coexistence and preservation of the national sovereignty of each nation. For us, our national sovereignty is exclusively about our right to exercise political freedom and control over our priorities, policies and programmes. As a Government, we endorse the principle that the people’s sovereignty collectively takes precedence over any individual’s sovereignty. In defence of the nation, we are conscious also of the fact that interference or violations of our sovereignty can emerge from both within the nation and without.
Therefore, as patriots living in a global community and belonging to the human race, we extend a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all other well-meaning and progressive nations and international bodies, regardless of any form of distinction. But, we fervently oppose at all times all external interference in our rights and privileges as a sovereign state, and we demand that all external regional and sub-regional organizations focus on genuine socio-economic agendas, and refrain from being prescriptive over and dictate to nations that do not fall within their spheres of hegemony. This is particularly so, where such interference seeks to condone crime and protect criminals, encourages immoral and ungodly attitudes or behaviours like homosexuality.
Just as the African continent’s progress is linked to the freedom and unity of all African countries, so is the salvation of each nation linked to the emancipation of their entire citizenry. As patriots, we must undertake to reverse and dislodge what has been described as the infamous colonial legacy of inequitable and inappropriate development structures and plans that continue to undermine economic, political and social development in Africa. Some of these structures have been so deeply entrenched in African society that they tend to support neo-imperialist strategies that surface in different forms and in deceitful ways from time to time.
Distinguished Viewers and Listeners
It is fascinating that the West has preferred to be blind to the legislative reform initiatives undertaken in The Gambia in recent years. The domestication of international Conventions and instruments, the harmonious integration of the Common Law and Islamic Law (Sharia), the establishment of an Alternative Dispute Resolution Tribunal and the production of a new set of the revised Laws of The Gambia are among genuine endeavours to institute a just and effective judicial or legal system, which the Gambian people have endorsed, noting that the process followed to bring about these reforms was participatory and all-inclusive.
We know that laws, like the factors that inform them, are socially located and distinctively contextual. Therefore, our laws are depictive of our values, religions, traditions, customs and, generally, our culture. Our institutions seek to speak to and preserve those elements that instill and sustain social cohesion, stability and economic development. In the quest for self-determination, as a sovereign nation, we are guided by these precepts. Our religion defines our cultural values as a people and these religious values would be defended a all times and at any cost.
In re-defining our independence and our roles and responsibilities individually and collectively, let us submit to the collective or national will. We the Gambians are peace-loving, tolerant and hospitable people and we should exhibit these values towards one another and towards other peoples as this is a clear demonstration of true Islam and Islamic values.
I appreciate the recent show of solidarity with my Government, which, as I said earlier, symbolises the patriotic disposition of Gambians. It signals political awareness and maturity, and a pressing desire to protect our sovereignty. However, I re-echo my call on all Gambians (the youth, parents, teachers, professionals, technicians and everyone else from other walks of life) to arm themselves with the degree of spiritual, political and social conscientiousness, commitment and dedication to the common good required of all patriots, and act as community agents for societal progress and peace, as well as for the preservation of the cultural integrity and dignity of the Gambian people.
Africa’s history has been blurred by external factors and interventions that led to conflict and backwardness. We vow not to bequeath such a blurred legacy to the coming generations; and to do achieve this, we must be mindful of strategies used against Africans. Colonial and neo-imperialist strategies are not different. To dominate a people, the trick is to divide them, weaken them, control their frameworks and apparatuses, dissipate their resources, render their institutions dysfunctional and define their reference points. In consequence, this is an era of resistance and cooperation: resistance to foreign domination (be this cultural, economic or political domination), and cooperation for global progress and peace, and for improvement on the overall quality of life.
Unperturbed by whatever the enemies of the nation say or do, we will continue to build this nation, pursue our vision and ensure that the entire citizenry enjoy a higher quality of life at all times, while living in peace and harmony as brothers and sisters. Looking into the future, my Government will continue to strive to fight crime, ungodly behaviours and attributes and all vices that deter progress. To those enemies of Africa in general and The Gambia in particular, let me assure that you will always fail by the Grace of the Almighty ALLAH. And if you make the lethal mistake of setting your feet on Gambian soil, you will regret why you are born without fail. We will always prevail over all evil people and their machinations INSHA ALLAH.
The recent change of work schedules for the public sector provides opportunities for all of us to worship ALLAH as Muslims appropriately, as well as embark on out-of-office income-generating activities for poverty eradication. We must find ways of creating wealth and living as independent individuals and families and, collectively, as an independent nation. It is only when we cultivate a true culture of patriotism, hard work and discipline that we will be able to contribute selflessly to our collective wellbeing.
Distinguished Viewers and Listeners
As President of this country, I promise you better days, higher projects and a brighter future, Insha Allah. In return, I call on you to be more vigilant, and work closely with Government to achieve our individual and collective national objectives and aspirations.
At this juncture, I pay solemn tribute to all the visiting heads of state, illustrious dignitaries and other distinguished personalities in our midst. While we remember and pray for those who are less fortunate to join us in celebration of our National Day, I congratulate all Gambians and thank the public servants, national and regional committees and all those behind the successful celebrations of this year’s independence anniversary. I also thank and pay tribute to the schoolchildren, teachers, parents, security services, voluntary organizations and cultural groups for an impressive turnout and for their contribution to the splendour of the day. To all those who have come out to attend this event, we equally convey profound appreciation and gratitude. To all of you I say, Peace and Love.
May the Almighty Allah guide us to a quick and decisive victory over poverty, and may He help us to transpose our nation into the prosperous entity we aspire.
Long live The Gambia!
Long live all patriotic Gambians!
Long live the African people!
I thank you for your kind attention.