Gov’t to use Janjanbureh Bicentenary to push reparations agenda

Gov’t to use Janjanbureh Bicentenary to push reparations agenda

President Barrow has announced that The Gambia will seize the McCarthy Island Bicentenary celebration to use its diplomatic, intellectual, and cultural advantage to promote the reparations agenda.

Celebrating the 200 years of returning freed slaves to the Island of Janjanbureh through Homecoming and Rediscovery of Gambia’s heritage, the President of The Gambia said that the historic Island would continue to receive the attention of The Gambia authorities. He added that all the interesting heritage sites and cultural products of the Island would also be fully upgraded and valorised to generate jobs through heritage tourism, foster national unity and project a positive image of the people.

His Excellency Adama Barrow was joined by other VIPs including Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, KC – Commonwealth Secretary General and Amadou Bah Prime Minister of Senegal representing President Macky Sall.

The event was attended by cabinet Ministers and His Excellency Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia, President of ECOWAS Commission, Her Excellency, Former Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy and Secretary General of the UNWTO.

Among other VIPs at the commemoration were Governors, Mayors, NAMs, Councilors, Chiefs, and government officials.

The Bicentenary commemoration of the Island was held on Saturday, 6 January 2024, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Homecoming and Our Heritage’.

Going down memory lane, he said “history teaches us that, about 200 years ago, the Island of Janjanbureh was transformed from a peaceful Gambian settlement to a trading center by the British, under Queen Victoria. It eventually hosted many French and British firms and was renamed McCarthy Island, with a part of it called Georgetown.”

“As we have it on record, thousands of Africans who were freed from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade bound for Freetown, Sierra Leone, were re-settled here in Georgetown. Therefore, we are in this historic town to celebrate its bicentenary on an island where hope was restored to captured Africans who were unjustly seized, unjustly treated, and unjustly removed from their homeland and families without any regard for their rights and dignity,” the President reaffirmed.

Notwithstanding, he said it’s with mixed feelings that the historic festival was organised to remember the events of the mid-nineteenth century because of the “cruel acts of that dark era” in which Africans have been forced to demand reparations from those who took part in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

“The African Union, for instance, has in the past two decades led a strong and persistent campaign on reparations for slavery as a basic human right for Africans,” he added.

Coming home, he said, in 2022, at its 73rd Ordinary Session held in Banjul, The Gambia, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights agreed to set up a committee that would establish a case for reparations.

In this case, he noted that The Gambia will seize the McCarthy Island Bicentenary celebration to use its diplomatic, intellectual, and cultural advantage to promote the reparations agenda.

“Last October, I observed that it is rewarding for a nation to reflect on the past in order to chart the way forward for a better future. For this reason, my Cabinet worked closely with the National Organising Committee, stakeholders, and the communities of the area to hold this grand commemoration.

As a result, among other attendees, the Festival has brought together Gambians at home and those in the diaspora, in addition to friends of The Gambia, historians, and tourists to participate in the healing, re-connection, and reconciliation process through our shared history and heritage. Therefore, I am pleased that the organisers have involved not only artistes in The Gambia but also those in the sub-region and beyond in the activities for peace and reconciliation.”

President Barrow also expressed that besides the objectives of the Festival, Africans were celebrating hope over despair and indifference, growth and progress over stagnation and submission, and unity in diversity over intolerance and instability, “This is an important message for everyone, especially the African youth.”

The Westerners who landed in Janjanbureh two hundred years ago, he said, made the best out of a very bad situation and ended up building homes and careers for themselves and their offspring. “So, the lesson for our youths is that we must strive to succeed in the country. As we put it, Tekki Fi.”

His Excellency Barrow also spoke against illegal migration, saying the risk of boarding boats to cross the rough waters of the Atlantic for life abroad is unnecessary. Like the Western settlers, 200 years ago, “let us stay in our homeland and exploit the numerous opportunities available to build better homes, uplift our lives, and support our families.”

The Gambia President addressing the Bicentenary event at the beautiful Island of Janjanbureh, said his government is aware of the role that heritage and culture can play in job creation and the economic well-being of youth. “This partly explains our commitment to the Festival, and it will not end here. We will build upon the lessons and success stories of the Bicentenary and further promote the heritage and artistic sectors for the gainful employment of the youth.”

Speaking on the continuous promotion of heritage, he said through support from UNESCO, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has developed regulations for The National Endowment For Arts and Culture. The instrument will attract funding, through grants, for artistic and cultural projects.

The President expressed delight over the commemoration and thanked all the dignitaries that joined to celebrate this important occasion and also reflected on the presence of the Senegalese high-level delegation to the commemoration, which he said “once again, manifests the bond of friendship and good neighbourliness President Macky Sall holds for The Gambia.”

Other speakers the commemoration were Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, KC – Commonwealth Secretary General, Amadou Bah Prime Minister of Senegal representing President Macky Sall, Honourable Hamat N.K. Bah – The Gambian Minister for Tourism and Culture, Hon Ousman Bah, the Governor of Central River Region among others.

Source: The Point

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