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,

H.E Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Former President of the Federal Republic of Somalia

Honourable Members of Cabinet and the National Assembly,

Lord Mayors of Banjul and Kanifing Municipality,

Regional Governors,

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,

Representatives of International Organisations and Partners,

Political Party Leaders,

Government Officials and Service Chiefs,

Community and Religious Leaders,

Fellow Gambians,

Boys and Girls,

Annually, we observe our National Day on 18th February to renew our ties and commitments as a nation. It is an occasion that creates opportunities for solidarity, reflection, and re-dedication to our motherland.

As we celebrate The Gambia’s 58th Independence Anniversary today, let us, therefore, focus on our common features as Gambian citizens, instead of our differences.

We are compelled to co-exist as Gambians and should accept the wisdom and necessity of living together in peace and harmony to develop our homeland, despite our diverse opinions and interests.

Fortunately, our differences can be harmonised by democracy as a political system and a social process in our family systems, communities, institutions, organisations and the nation at large. For this reason, the theme of my address this year is Democracy – A Recipe for Peace and Development.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Democracy allows us to consult, dialogue, negotiate, compromise and accommodate dissent. It is a system that rejects injustice, inequality, suppression, dictatorship and autocracy. In addition, it promotes rights, freedoms, procedures, and regulations.

In The Gambia, as democrats, we maintain the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of Law, with due regard accorded to our diversity.

Convinced that democracy is a framework to attain peace, development, and stability, my government is duly committed to good governance entrenched in the principles of democracy. We believe in democracy for peace and development, as well as democracy for self-determination, economic growth and protection of human dignity. In brief, we believe in inclusive democracy for inclusive development and stability.

In our model of democracy, the government legitimately derives its mandate and authority from the people and, hence, must defend their values and principles, beliefs and practices, aspirations and social structures. In this way, there is harmony between the government and the people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Our National Day is a reminder for us to showcase our patriotism and loyalty as proud Gambians who are willing to accommodate one another.

To this end, my government is determined to unite the people to work together for peace and development and leave behind durable achievements. Our governance approach and development initiatives illustrate our commitment to democracy and how we have successfully used it as a development model.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2022 was a challenging year. It confronted us with rising living costs and hiking prices of fuel influenced by the global crisis. These reduced the ability of households to fulfil their basic needs and responsibilities.  

Conscious of the responsibilities of the State, and to deliver on our promise to stabilise prices, my government took strides to ease the accompanying hardship imposed on the people. We took various steps to lower the price of fuel, which has implications on business transactions and the price of commodities.

We will continue to monitor the public institutions and work with the private sector to maximise their contributions to national development and to improve living standards in the country.

Fellow Gambians, Distinguished Guests,

Although we have made numerous inroads into institutional and infrastructural development, we are eager to do a lot more.

We have broken new frontiers in providing electricity, yet we are keener today to reach and serve all parts of the country better. We have expanded healthcare provision and improved the health sector, but our desire is to have a healthy nation wherein life expectancy equals the best in other parts of the world.

The targets for these aspirations are embodied in the new five-year Recovery-focused Development Plan and Vision 2050. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

In all genuine democracies, like ours, there are adequate checks and balances to prevent unlawful actions. The Law provides a level playing field for all citizens; as such, living by the Law ensures that we do not offend anyone and, thereby, co-exist in peace and harmony.

In this sense, peace must imply living in a safe environment where lives and property are protected, and hunger, poverty, and disease do not cause any suffering. Through our thoughts and actions, peace must also filter through to every segment of our communities, families, and institutions.

Our national agenda, as defined in the new Development Plan and Vision 2050, outlines how to recover from the effects of the pandemic, inflation, and climate change. These documents also map out routes to attain our national goals and targets. We must work hard, however, and look into the future with guided optimism and readiness to overcome challenges. Unlike natural disasters, we have full control over the choice to act in a civil and democratic manner to maintain peace and develop our country together.  Thus, let us make a conscious choice to demonstrate that we are indeed the Smiling Coast of West Africa and a democratic nation of peace, especially during the forthcoming Local Government Elections.

Distinguished Personalities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls,

Peace, stability, and development go together, hence a common characteristic of the strongest nations is stability. They have overcome the fear and incidence of instability, particularly through military takeovers and unconstitutional uprisings.

In contrast, conflicts and military takeovers persistently hinder Africa’s development. Often, sections of a nation rejoice when there is a military takeover, but it is always short-lived. The people must rise against the horrors of wars, conflicts, and unrest, beginning with the gallant citizens in uniform. We have noted that, in recent years, the elite in African armies have stayed away from unconstitutional actions. This should now filter down to all ranks within every army on the continent.

As we did in 2016, there are legal, democratic, and constitutional ways of removing unpopular governments; so, there is no wisdom in choosing paths that lead to unrest and destruction.

As we internally manage the affairs of our dear nation, we must also look inward with more patriotic vigour and unite to strengthen internal security. Recent reports of armed robbery, stabbing, and such unfamiliar brutal acts of cowardice in our society threaten national security.   I call on the general public to step up neighbourhood watch networks and be more vigilant.  Criminal acts leading to injury and loss of life are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. 

At the institutional level, my government will continue its capacity enhancement efforts for the security sector to competently handle and decisively prevent such deadly crimes.

Looking ahead, the younger generation will appreciate us better if we construct a future of comfort, peace, and happiness for them. This is what democracy offers.

Boys and Girls,

My government continually refers to education as a priority and will never cease exploring ways of ensuring that, in the long term, we have a literate and sufficiently skilled population.

Education is the key to development and the more adequately trained and skilled citizens we have, the greater our chances are to lift the country out of ignorance, poverty and ill-health. As school children, boys and girls, you always play a significant role during our Independence Anniversary celebrations. I urge you to take your participation beyond the morning parades. Reflect on the significance of the Day among yourselves and strive to become a new breed of democratic citizens.

Like every responsible parent and citizen, I advise you to work hard at school, love your country and endeavour passionately to contribute to its development. Be law-abiding, grasp the technologies and opportunities before you, and never despair of success.

This is an era of knowledge, technology, and seeking evidence-based solutions to challenges. Beware of this and be mindful of the consequences of your actions.

Wherever you may be, be proud of your birthland and its people. Always feel proud to say, “I am an African and a true Gambian.” Because all that glitters is not gold, do not be deceived by the distractions you may come across.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We cannot mention the schoolchildren without reference to the teaching fraternity as a major partner in development. Teaching is a noble profession, and teachers influence character formation and shape society. Learners excel in educational institutions because of the processes teachers manage therein. Accordingly, my government is as interested in the performance of our students as it is in the welfare of the teachers.   

As a result, I call on our teachers and all those in public service to always pursue the path of dialogue in handling their concerns. My government has an open-door policy and will engage with its workers to reach amicable and realistic compromises on matters affecting their welfare.

I appreciate and thank the teachers, the schoolchildren and their parents, the security services, the participating organisations, and all those who have contributed to the success of this celebration.

The security services have made the occasion lively and joyful. We appreciate and thank them most sincerely.  

Likewise, I am thankful to the friends and partners of the nation for their support and contributions to the welfare of the people.

Indeed, I deeply appreciate all those who have turned out today to celebrate the day with us, and I congratulate everyone present and the entire population on this joyous occasion.

As we leave this venue, let us remember that in the true spirit of democracy is embedded the recipe for peace, development, and stability. Similarly, in solidarity and hard work lie our economic growth, success, and prosperity. To succeed, we must unite.

I wish you all a very happy Independence Anniversary celebration.

God bless the Gambian nation!         

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