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US diplomat hails Banjul-Washington ties

Jan 28, 2011, 9:32 AM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

A senior United States diplomat based at the US State Department in Washington has hailed the existing bilateral relations between Banjul and Washington, describing it as cordial and fruitful.

Madam Renee Michelle Ragin, who is currently on a visit to The Gambia courtesy of the US embassy in Banjul, is the Desk Officer for The Gambia and Mauritania at the Office of West African Affairs at the US Department of State in Washington.

She was speaking to our reporter in a post-lecture interview on the topic "Public Affairs is where it is at" held at the American Corner.

"As the Desk Officer for The Gambia, my responsibilities are to know the Embassy and know what they are doing in The Gambia, and what resources we have to help other countries. We also help find new opportunities and projects for The Gambia and for the State Department to know. Our Embassy is on the ground, they watch and see what is going on and interact with local people here in order to learn and know from them," she said

According to Madam Renee, what they are looking at is not what opportunities US can offer to The Gambia but what partnership can the United States have with The Gambia to improve the relationship between the two countries. She added that are they working hard with their partner and allied nations towards development.

"The relationship between Banjul and Washington is very strong. We had a lot of partnership and organizations. I think we have very friendly and fruitful relationship and we are looking forward to seeing it go from strength and strength based on mutual respect and interest in the future," she stated.

She noted that since her arrival in the country, she has been to many places to hear and see from people and that she was in Bwiam to see how refugees were fleeing from Casamance to The Gambia. "I also talked to the Gambia Bar Association to find out how the administration of the rule of law is going on in the country and what the complications are," she added.

In her opinion, The Gambia has made little progress towards it human rights records. "The Gambia is continuing to move on the right track but more needs to be done to improve on its human rights situation," she opined.

2011 Ambassador Debate Tournament Launched

Meanwhile, as part of its unflinching support towards the development of education in The Gambia, the United States Embassy in Banjul, in collaboration with the University of The Gambia Debating Association, yesterday launched the 2011 Ambassador’s debate tournament at a ceremony held at the American Corner on Kairaba Avenue.

According to the organisers, the tournament will have three different levels: senior secondary school, UTG inter-school and inter-tertiary debate tournaments.

Speaking in an interview with our reporter shortly after the launching, the president of the UTG Debating Association, Muhammed Njie, said the idea of forming the debate club was introduced to the university sometime in 2008 during a visit by two US embassy officials - Tashawana Bethea and Mohammadou Njie.

Since the establishment of his association, it has staged debates, lectures and training workshops, he said, adding that they have radio debates and discussions on various issues ranging from politics, environment, science, and economics.

He stated that the debate topics are drawn by a neutral body and scrutinised by the executive of the Debate Association as well as a panel set up by the UTGDA. "The panel will be independent and no participant from any department will be part of it," Njie added.

The UTG inter-school debate will consist of the following: School of Business and Public Administration, Faculty of Law, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Information Technology & Sciences, School of Education, School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

The Inter-tertiary debate will include the UTG, the Management Development Institute, the Gambia Technical Training Institute and the Gambia College.

The Inter-senior school debate will bring together Gambia High School, Gambia Methodist Academy, St Joseph Senior Secondary School, Marina International School, SOS Senior Secondary School, and St Peters Senior Secondary School.

Njie is of the conviction that the activities that are being implemented will further strengthen academics not only within the university but also across the board to other tertiary institutions.

The launching was witnessed by Tula Orum, Public Affairs Officer, and Momodou (Papa) Njie, Assistant Public Affairs Officer and Education Advisor at the US Embassy.