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US Ambassador Wells speaks as he leaves The Gambia today

Jul 15, 2010, 1:19 PM | Article By: Baboucarr Senghore

After successfully completing his three-year mission to The Gambia, US Ambassador Barry L. Wells is set to leave The Gambia for Washington D.C.

A master of words, outgoing Ambassador Well's eloquence has captivated the imagination of all from all corners of The Gambia.

In this brief interview with Baboucarr Senghore held at his office yesterday, Ambassador Wells dwells on a wide range of issues, ranging from US-Gambia relations to other issues of paramount importance to the African continent.

"The Governments of the Gambia and United States," says Ambassador Wells, "have enjoyed very good and fruitful relations". According to him, Africa's leadership is critical to not only solving its problems, but also leading its integration and development process as well.

Below we produce the full details of the interview:

Q - Thank-you very much, Your Excellency, for granting us this interview. You have finally come to the end of your mission to The Gambia, could you please tell us how has it been?

A - It's been very interesting and enjoyable. My wife and I were welcomed very warmly here in The Gambia, and our stay here has been a pleasant one. I think we have promoted the types of programmes and initiatives, and not only support our own government's foreign policy initiatives, but also the President's agenda here and the government of The Gambia. We enjoyed very much the opportunity to travel around the country, meet with the people, as well as see developments that are taking place under His Excellency the President's government. We certainly appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the country's development, and wish The Gambia well in its continuous development.

Q - How has the relationship between the two countries been over the past years?

A - I believe both the government of The Gambia and government of the United States of America have enjoyed very good and fruitful relations. We certainly have the opportunity to discuss issues that are of paramount importance to us, and are able to address those issues in a very cordial and professional way.

Q - What has been your greatest achievement during your tenure in The Gambia?

A - It's very difficult to point at one thing, but certainly the success that we?ve enjoyed in terms of promoting trade in The Gambia, business people' understanding and access to the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) where we promoted many people to attend various training workshops, both in the US and here on the continent. Our contributions to the agriculture sector; we were able to assist with the organization of a programme for the cashew industry and promoted the cashew farmers initiatives here in a positive way.

Certainly, our Peace Corps volunteers, who are assigned throughout the country have agriculture, public health and information technology education as their priorities. So all of these represent what I consider very positive achievements, during my tenure. I, personally, have a strong commitment to education, and I believe that education is one of the most important foundations to alleviate poverty, and improve the quality of life of the people. So I have been very pleased to support education very much, and the Ambassadors Fund for Girls Scholarships Programme supports the University of The Gambia.

Q - Evidently, The Gambia has benefited a lot from the US. What else can Gambians expect from the US Government now that you are leaving?

A - Well, I think you will find out that our government's priorities and initiatives will continue, irrespective of who the Ambassador is. So, am confident that we will continue to promote those areas that we feel are in support of The Gambia's initiatives.

Q - What is your next assignment from here?

A - I will be going back to Washington to the State Department, where I will be awaiting my next assignment, which will undoubtedly be in Washington. But I will continue to follow The Gambia and the progress in the country. We have very much enjoyed our time here and, of course, we are very committed to assisting whenever we can.

Q - As a developing nation, what do you think is the way forward for The Gambia?

A - As I mentioned before, I have to agree with His Excellency the President's call for a return to the land. Agriculture plays an important role in the socio-economic development of the country, and expanding the country's agriculture beyond subsistence farming to a more commercialised effort is certainly something good for the country. So, all these initiatives designed will promote agricultural development and food self-sufficiency.

Q - What advice do you have for African leaders?

A - Well, I don't know whether I can give a message quite as broad, but I can only say that President Obama alluded to in his speech to parliament in Accra, Ghana, last year that "Africa has to find solutions to African problems." Africa's leadership is critical to not only solving its problems, but also leading its integration and development process as well. And, secondly, is the importance of capacity-building for its people to be able to address the initiatives of the people to promote good health, public safety and stability.

Q - Your final words?

A - Just to express our appreciation to The Gambia government and the Gambian people for having so warmly accepted us in The Gambia, and for making our stay here a memorable one.