On behalf of the National Executive Committee, the members, and militants of the United Democratic Party and Indeed on my own behalf I wish you happy Africa Day. It is 58 years today since the leaders of our continent converged in Addis Ababa to establish Organisation for African Unity when the Gambia was still under British colonial control.
I pledge to you that a UDP Government will pursue a Foreign Policy based on our timeless Pan African values of Ubuntu, Teranga, Boonya; values that emphasise the worth and dignity of human beings; values that place a premium on cooperation and solidarity in place sterile competition. A new Pan African cooperation framework anchored on African culture and civilisation that celebrates our diversity in unity of purpose and shared values of democracy, good governance and respect for the rule of law.
Over the years we have become used to seeing images of African young men & women and now children crammed into boats and makeshift rafts trying to reach Europe through the ‘BACKWAY’. According to reports of humanitarian organisations more than 20,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014 including several Gambians.
Life is so difficult for millions of people on our continent and opportunities so few that they would risk their lives crossing the sea in pursuit of a better future. In the Gambia we are experiencing a wave of violent crimes unprecedented in the history of our peace loving nation. Prompting the question what is the role of the state in ensuring human dignity security and prosperity? What is the role of Government in protecting the lives and properties of the citizens?
UDP firmly believes that Africa needs a new theory of Government and a new vison of the role of the state in the development of the capacities of the people. To achieve that low-income small states like the Gambia must reinvent the institutions of government to increase the capabilities of the state to empower the people and to enable them to build better lives for themselves in genuine cooperation through win-win partnerships with their neigbours and the planet.
As we observe Africa Day in the receding shadow of the COVID19 Pandemic, these tragic stories remind us of the huge task we have to build a better life for all the people of Africa. While we celebrate the progress we have made towards building a peaceful and prosperous continent, for instance the establishment of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, events in our neighbouring region of North Africa show that we still have a long way to go.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made people already suffering from the effects of conflict, under-development and poverty even more vulnerable. However one enduring lesson of the global pandemic is that there are no challenges on earth that human cooperation and collective efforts cannot resolve; science and technology have been mobilised to combat an existential threat to humanity. Within a relatively short period of time effective vaccines were found through collaborative ventures and now there is light at end of tunnel.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of unity and cooperation between African countries. It has seen the continent strengthen its ties with the broader international community and global institutions.
To reinforce this new found spirit of unity it may be time to rethink maintaining the artificial colonial borders that are still hindering greater African integration. In ECOWAS for more than 40 years there has not been any cross border incursions or significant border disputes and still the borders are guarded and closed at night impeding free movement of people & goods.
African economies have been severely damaged and growth prospects are greatly diminished. Many of the continent’s developmental gains may be reversed as the fight against the pandemic takes precedence over other national priorities like poverty eradication. Although low-income countries are especially vulnerable, low income small states like the Gambia have been particularly severely hit. These reasons make it even more urgent to build capable states that can leverage the abundant human capital and natural resources of our continent.
UDP believes that to support the continent’s economic recovery, African governments must work together through the African Union (AU) to mobilise significant financing to meet our sustainable development goals.Last week several African leaders attended a summit in Paris hosted by President Emmanuel Macron on the financing of African economies in the post-COVID-19 era. The Gambia was conspicuously absent from this strategic meeting with our development partners focused on sharing strategies for a sustainable Post Covid19 recovery.
Consequently UDP expresses its support for a comprehensive and robust economic stimulus package for Africa to aid the recovery. But this should not be a substitute for official development aid.UDP also welcomes the steps taken by financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support low- and middle-income nations, and called for further measures to support vulnerable countries. This would include an allocation by the IMF of what are known as Special Drawing Rights, where on the basis of membership quotas, around $33 billion will be released to increase the reserves of African countries.
UDP recognises that the international experience with COVID-19 has been a lesson in the importance of collaboration between African countries and with our international partners. Our gains as a continent have been because we have both drawn on our own capabilities and worked with the international community.As African countries, we want to help ourselves and not be told what is good for us.
UDP emphasizes the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’ should be applied in bilateral and multilateral relations. It is important that we affirm our sovereignty as free and independent states capable of determining the destiny of our continent. While countries have immediate financing needs, a sustainable economic recovery can only be assured if we increase levels of investment on the continent.
UDP firmly believes that investing in African economies will contribute to making Africa the next champion of global growth. The African Continental Free Trade Area will play a key role in the continental recovery. UDP also envisages a greater role for the continental network of African public development banks to mobilise funding to support key projects in health, education, infrastructure, green growth and other sectors.
Finally as an African leader I hereby acknowledge the centrality of good governance, public debt management, financial integrity and creating a more favourable climate for private sector investment in their economies. As we observe Africa Day, let us deepen our efforts to achieve a sustainable and lasting social and economic recovery for the citizens of Africa.
Ours must become a continent that is thriving and prosperous, not one from which its people are dying in an attempt to leave. As a nation, we are part of Africa and Africa is part of us. What happens in one part of our continent affects all of us, and so we must work together to recover from this crisis, and to ensure that our continent grows and thrives.
Happy Africa Day.
VIVA AFRICAN UNITY
Ousainu ANM Darboe
Secretary General & Party Leader