Feb 19, 2021, 11:34 AM

Your Excellency, the Vice President,

Your Excellencies, the First Lady, Fatou Bah-Barrow and Madam Sarjo Mballow-Barrow

Former Vice Presidents present,

Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,

My Lord, the Chief Justice,

Honourable Members of Cabinet and the National Assembly,

Lord Mayors of Banjul and Kanifing Municipalities,

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,

Government Officials and Service Chiefs,

Venerable Religious Leaders,

Distinguished Personalities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Once again, we have assembled to celebrate The Gambia’s historic attainment of Independence as a sovereign state. Fifty-six years on today, we thank God for allowing us to continue the never-ending task of nation building.

Together, we can look back with pride, satisfied that Gambian citizens themselves are ably managing the affairs of the nation, even though our pace of development could have been faster. 

Due to the pandemic, for instance, 2020 was not a normal year globally. With the new Coronavirus variants spreading wider and faster, 2021 has not started well either. Nonetheless, it is a significant year for various reasons.

First, it marks the end of our three-year National Development Plan. Second, it is the target year to usher in the Third Republic. Third, it is the year to elect a President, and mark the end of the current transition phase under my leadership.

Despite all the challenges, we should note that obstacles that tend to slow down progress can actually inspire us further, and strengthen our determination to succeed. This was demonstrated as we confronted the 2020 challenges, and we are more determined today than ever.

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

The Gambia’s attainment of Political Independence on 18th February, 1965 was chiefly about sovereignty and self-determination. Globally, these ideals are reflected in the freedom people enjoy in order to lawfully pursue their interests, progress and wellbeing.

Our sovereignty should be measured, therefore, by the extent of our security as a nation and as individuals. This depends on how civil liberties and freedoms are guaranteed to fulfil the people’s aspirations and the realisation of their potential individually as members of a nation, family and society. This realisation guides my Government’s policies. 

As we celebrate our National Day, let us appreciate that Political Independence and National Sovereignty are portrayed by the recognition, dignity, freedom and self-determination of a people. Broader still, sovereignty is about self-rule through domestic policies, and interdependence through foreign policies and cooperation. It does not imply isolation.

In this regard, we must look inward as a nation to tap our resources and comparative advantages, and look outward to supplement them and compensate for our shortcomings.

This is why bilateral relations and membership to multinational organisations are relevant government strategies worldwide.

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Sovereignty, as a key focus of this address, entails Government engagement in circumstances wherein the State and people are one unified, solid entity. Within this framework, our identity as a nation is characterised by our cultures, which are informed by our individual beliefs, principles and actions.

How far we go and how high the Gambian flag flies depend on how united we are and how closely we work towards attaining our national targets. Significantly, our political affiliations and choices determine our development trends, and our determination, diligence and economic status drive our development activities. 

Distinguished Personalities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Working with the various arms of government and the security sector, my Administration will continue to defend the sovereignty of the country, and protect the freedoms and liberties of the people.

On the other hand, we encourage all Gambian citizens to make use of those liberties to exploit the existing opportunities, promote positive socio-political values and engage in activities that enhance national development.

Linked to democracy, our national vision is informed by the hopes, aspirations and will of the people; hence, my Government objects to all forms of injustice and oppression, as reflected in our decisions and actions. Crucially, we are a government that has the passion and commitment to transform our thoughts and ideals into reality through policies, programmes and projects.   

Constitutionally, I am mandated to listen to the people, which is the essence of the annual Meet The People Tour. The feedback from the last tour was quite positive and inspiring. Thus, we will continue to listen, and exhibit the will and integrity to act rightly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me reassure you all that my Government is steadfast and confident of delivering on our promises. So, let us muster our collective will as agents of change and progress to continue the development and democratic transformation of our institutions and society, while resisting division and injustice.

Together, let us remain civil and tolerant, socially and politically. If we coexist in peace and harmony, we will excel as a united force, which is the basis of success.

The Gambia’s international ratings in various areas of life are impressive, and are improving year by year.  

We will remain focused, conscious that we have a vision to realise, a mission to fulfil, policies, programmes and projects to deliver and the will to act and stay resolute.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a democracy, the government plans, reacts and acts in the interest and on behalf of the people, but not the influential few only. Where there is divergence, the voice of the majority should prevail, no matter how powerful the minority may appear to be. 

It is now clear that my Government adheres strictly to universal democratic principles and values. This underlies the institutions we seek to strengthen, the goals we set, the programmes we implement, and the manner our governance structures are fashioned and programmed to operate.

It should be noted, however, that democratic principles should guide governments, as well as individuals, families, institutions and organisations. In the process, we must accept each citizen as an independent person entitled to free choice and voice, once they do not violate the law and the noble values we hold as a people.

The 2021 Presidential Election provides an opportunity for all Gambians to display political prudence and discipline, bound by democratic values.

Our Government has been prepared adequately by the experience gathered over the past years to meet the people’s expectations. We know where the needs of the people are greatest, how painful it is to live in an underdeveloped country, how bitter it is to be marginalised and how unjust it is to be deprived of our rights and forced to accept what is not in our best interest.

As always, I plead for national unity, reconciliation and tolerance. The true Gambian nature is marked by warmth, sympathy, generosity and willingness to support one another. Let us apply these values wherever we may be.

For the good of all, we need to give a new meaning to National Independence through our relationships, interactions and service to the nation within the framework of good governance, speedy development and peaceful coexistence in a nation and government for all citizens.

The time has come for us to courageously look into the future with optimism, accept one another, patch up our differences, and find ways of working together in the national interest.

We have witnessed how partisan politics and conflict pull people apart and undermine the power and glory of nations, no matter how great they may be. Not even the most powerful are spared of division if the law is not upheld.

The lesson is that the law guarantees the mandate of governments and the rights of the people; therefore, let us work together to achieve our development goals and desire for national unity.

Boys and Girls,

My mandate as President compels me to focus on the national picture in whatever we do, while being mindful of the concerns of the individuals, communities and diverse groups that form our society.

As a result, my Administration believes that we should have smart citizens who are soundly educated, sufficiently enlightened, duly exposed, relevantly experienced and adequately empowered with the necessary expertise and skills to constitute a quality human resource base for development. Education will continue, therefore, to be a national priority, and opportunities will remain endless for all children and youths to exploit.

Our target is to maintain a robust education system that delivers results based on the needs of the learners and stakeholders. I advise you, boys and girls, to be ambitious; learn to search for knowledge and utilise it to the advantage of society as a whole.

Reject drugs, crime, ethnic rivalry and all vices that are harmful and obstacles to your wellbeing and those around you. Condemn violence and division, embrace the nation, and strive to be useful and law-abiding patriots. The future is for you to shape, and now is the time to think about how you want to live in it. Getting it right today means succeeding tomorrow.    

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

With much honour, I thank all those within Government, especially the Cabinet members and their staff, our representatives around the world, the institutions, corporate bodies, religious leaders, civil society organisations and every law-abiding citizen and resident of The Gambia for your support and cooperation.

I also register deep gratitude to our international friends and partners for supporting the development and welfare of our people and nation.   On behalf of all Gambians, I commend the school children and their parents and teachers, the Education Sector personnel and the Security Services for their bright outfits and impressive parade.

By no means the least, I thank all those present for adding grace to the occasion. To the participants and organisers of the event, we say: well done, and thank you very much.   

Finally, I congratulate every Gambian on this solemn occasion, but as we celebrate, let us remember the health regulations, and protect ourselves and those around us by wearing a proper mask and sanitising our hands often.

May God bless The Gambia, and bless us all.

Thank you for your attention.