Sep 24, 2010, 11:44 AM
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, leader of the leading opposition party in the country, the United Democratic Party (UDP), has called on all to pledge our unflinching and firm allegiance to The Gambia, as we celebrate this year's independence anniversary.
In his Independence Day message to the nation, the opposition leader said "let us by all means rejoice and jubilate... Let us renew our promise of patriotism to the nation. Let us uphold and keep alight the torch of hope which was lighted on 18th February 1965."
Lawyer Darboe also called for rededicating ourselves "to the uplifting of our country from the doldrums of poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy in which we are wallowing," and to "work towards a less corrupt and more transparent society."
According to the opposition party leader, "no nation can achieve its developmental objectives if it is beset with crime," adding that "Gambians and others resident must cooperate fully with the law enforcement agencies."
The full text of Lawyer Darboe's speech follows:
My Fellow Gambians,
This is the 45th independence celebration. Nearly half of the present citizenry were not born when The Gambia became independent; for these Gambians comparison is not possible between then and now.
Independence entailed installing a government led by our own kith and kin as administrators and political leaders. The yearning then, as it is now, was to move from the underdevelopment and poverty to a steady improvement in the lot of the average Gambian. This was, in fact, the wish and expectation of all newly-independent peoples.
When the colonial masters left, we were endowed with a decent, disciplined and devoted civil service imbued with a sense of patriotism and devotion to the new nation whose survival was very much in doubt. It was renowned in Africa for its sense of duty and patriotism, two characteristics that made The Gambia a model of good administration cited in many Commonwealth countries.
We now see that service in total disarray with morale at its lowest ebb. The rules and regulations - the Financial Instructions and the General Orders - which are the backbone of good administrative practices and guided the civil service reach greater heights, are now dead letters. Some civil servants do not even know that these rules and regulations exist, not to mention being applied.
At independence, a promise of freedom and liberty was held out to all of us. You and I had absolute confidence in our leaders that no man shall be put at a disadvantage because of his tribe, religion, race, sex, creed or political persuasion.
The notion of independence is to be less dependent on others, that is to say, being in charge of one's own affairs. We can not ignore that in this day and age of globalization, interdependence is the order of the day. Nevertheless, independence does call for self reliance and self sufficiency individually and collectively. It also calls for committed, selfless and altruistic leadership - leadership in and for the service of the nation. It calls for the skillful and judicious management of our resources. It calls for fiscal and financial discipline.
After 45 years of nationhood, we should be able to point at tangible progress that positively impact on the lives of the ordinary citizens. We have borrowed millions of dollars and dalasi which, in some instances, have not been properly utilized. Our children and grand children are now lumbered with this huge debt burden.
There have not been any meaningful investments in industry, agriculture or social services that can provide sufficient employment opportunities for our young people. This is what the Asian countries, some of which gained independence within the same period as The Gambia, have done. Unlike these Asian nations, we content ourselves with grandiose, capital intensive and non productive projects. We in The Gambia can boast of having the best and most expensive cars in Africa.
After 45 years of independence, we import virtually everything that we eat, including vegetables and rice - our staple food. We have not harnessed and exploited the full potential of the River Gambia. With its abundant fresh water it can support irrigated rice farming, and other forms of agricultural activities throughout the year thus reducing our dependence on imported foodstuff.
The founding fathers of this great nation realized that independence will not transform our groundnut into diamonds. The sense of realism should continue to guide us. If we are to make strides in our quest for progress and unity, the leaders must be open-minded and accept that The Gambia is composed of people who espouse divergent views. This is recognized by our national anthem which, amongst other things, prays "to join our diverse people to prove man's brotherhood." We all have to accept and encourage the rule of law in all our dealings; promote good governance and human rights. In this way justice will guide us in all our actions.
As we celebrate this year's independence anniversary, let us by all means rejoice and jubilate. Let us pledge our unflinching and firm allegiance to The Gambia. Let us renew our promise of patriotism to the nation. Let us uphold and keep alight the torch of hope which was lighted on 18th February 1965.
Let us rededicate ourselves to the uplifting of our country from the doldrums of poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy in which we are wallowing. Let us work towards a less corrupt and more transparent society. We must desist from taking advantage of the poor, the less fortunate, the disadvantaged, the under-privileged and the gullible.
On this occasion, every leader of whatever description must accept that the leadership position he/she occupies should be used for the benefit and interest of those he leads.
On this occasion every leader should pledge to the Gambian people that there will be no "Animal Farm" in The Gambia. My compatriots, whilst wishing you a happy anniversary, I ask that we all unite to combat the spread of HIV/Aids, drug trafficking, rape and other crimes of violence that are besetting our nation.
No nation can achieve its developmental objectives if it is beset with crime. Gambians and others resident must cooperate fully with the law enforcement agencies in order to track down these antisocial culprits. In this way I believe we can make our independence meaningful, and that The Gambia that you and I dream of is possible.
Happy Independence Anniversary, and may God bless you all.