Opening Address By H.E. Adama Barrow,President Of The Republic Of The Gambia, At The National Dialogue

Opening Address By H.E. Adama Barrow,President Of The Republic Of The Gambia, At The National Dialogue

Opening Address By H.E. Adama Barrow, President Of The Republic Of The Gambia, At The National Dialogue On Preserving The Nation, Safeguarding The State And Securing Our Resources 

Held On 16th February 2024

Venue: SDKJICC, Bijilo

Your Excellency, the Vice President,

Your Excellencies, 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 Municipality,

Regional Governors,

Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,

Representatives of International Organisations and Development Partners,

Political Party Leaders,

Government Officials and Service Chiefs,

Community and Religious Leaders,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Students,

A series of consultative sessions and dialogue on the theme in focus preceded this National Dialogue forum aimed at building consensus on fundamental national issues of concern to all Gambians. It is proper, as such, to appreciate the efforts of all those who made this historic event possible. This includes the participants in those sessions, as well as all of you who found time to be here with us. With honour, therefore, I welcome you very warmly and thank you for coming.

As I said during the consultative forum with all the nineteen political party leaders in the country, we are making history together through our participation in this unprecedented event. Thus, we should be proud of ourselves and ensure that the event is very well written in the history of The Gambia.   

Although I am participating as the sitting President, I am also here as a citizen and a Gambian stakeholder like everyone else.

As citizens, we have an equal stake in the affairs of the country and should keenly take part in such activities. With this in mind, I do not intend to influence the trend of the  dialogue but to set the stage and tone of the deliberations that follow. In doing this, I will pay attention to the context, justification, and expected outcomes of the dialogue.  

The theme, “Preserving the Nation, safeguarding the State and securing our resources,” has already been unanimously accepted as relevant and timely.

To appreciate it better, however, we ought to ask ourselves: Who owns the Gambian nation? Who owns the State? Who owns The Gambia’s natural resources, and who should preserve the Nation, safeguard the State, and secure the Resources? Because we, the Gambian citizens, collectively own the country, we have the collective responsibility of taking charge of it and, in the process, take our destiny into our hands as a nation. 

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is my view that, according to the theme, the goal of this National Dialogue Forum, among other outcomes, is to foster national unity, peace, progress, and stability.

For me, preserving the nation implies protecting the people and everything associated with them; in particular, their wellbeing, honour, values, and all that make them stand out distinctly as individuals and communities, bound by blood or social ties, as well as other special characteristics. An expected outcome of achieving this objective is a healthy, productive, and happy Gambian population.

As a sovereign state, safeguarding the State implies protecting our land, borders, and everything directly under the authority and responsibility of the Government.

To cite examples, these include our formal institutional arrangements, national symbols and apparatuses, legal frameworks, and seats of authority, especially for the three arms of the State.  In sum, this is about the autonomy or sovereignty of our motherland. It is only when we achieve this successfully that we can sustain strong institutions, efficient services, progress, and stability.

Next, all nations need resources for survival and development. Such resources consist of all the human, economic, and material items of the nation.

They incorporate all assets, property, and everything produced or used for production, not leaving out our airspace and the sunshine over and around us. Securing a nation’s resources and utilising them wisely lead to growth in national wealth, development, and guaranteed livelihoods, among numerous other benefits.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Holding this Dialogue Forum can be justified from various perspectives. Principally, it stems from the Constitution, which states that The Gambia shall be a multiparty democracy. Here we are, guided by the principle of multiparty democracy and pluralism, to dialogue. It is acknowledged in all democracies that dialogue is a democratic principle; thus, this National Forum reflects democracy at work.

The merits of dialogue are many. It is sufficient to mention briefly that it gives the people a voice, as it provides space for their participation in national affairs.

Dialogue enhances building consensus and bridges across peoples of diverse composition and persons who hold different opinions.

Nationally, dialogue comes with the possibility of sharing experiences, knowledge, and new ideas, leading to understanding, cooperation and, subsequently, unity, peace, progress, and stability. All these benefits are interlinked and, often, inseparable.

Because the forum has a firm democratic basis, I advise that we conduct the proceedings in a true democratic spirit. This refers to the democratic spirit of contributing to the progress and development of the nation, prompted by the spirit of patriotism and informed by knowledge, experience, and sincerity.

The forum is neither meant for any party to score political points, nor for anyone to make gains for oneself. I advise that we refrain from using it to attack, degrade, or undermine any person, party, group, or community. Instead, let us utilise it for the good of the nation, while setting the stage for future dialogues, cooperation, and collaboration.

The forum provides an excellent opportunity for us to iron out our differences and create a politically and socially amicable atmosphere for all Gambians to coexist peacefully. I propose that the forum adopts realistic resolutions for joint implementation.

While we may not agree over certain principles, we can always agree on national frameworks or policies, programmes, and projects. The reason is that there is always a common standpoint from which we can work together, remembering that the basic principles of dialogue include consensus building. Building consensus calls for negotiation, flexibility, and compromise.   

Ladies and gentlemen, I propose further that the success of this dialogue be assessed by the extent to which it will contribute to enlightening the Gambian citizens, no matter how remote their homes are. Let its impact be determined also by the extent to which it will influence political theories in our institutions and the school curriculum to produce democratic citizens.

Through this forum, we should be able to eradicate the man-made barriers that breed ill will. Let the forum serve to end anger and hostility, for example, between ethnic groupings and political parties, between the State and the people, and between the formal institutions and the common citizens.

I

 am informed that there is a national coordination and dissemination strategy to make sure that the discussions and outcomes of the forum reach the citizens in the remotest parts of the country. The strategy contains planned Regional Dialogue Forums to give this initiative a true national character. I have noted that the thematic areas, derived from the main theme, are all in the public interest. They are not framed in favour of any person or group of persons.

The Preparatory Committee for the 59th Independence Day Anniversary Celebration, working independently under the coordination of the Director of Press and Public Relations under my Office, Mrs. Amie Bojang-Sissoho, proposed and adopted all the sub-themes. I sincerely commend them for their foresight, wisdom, and hard work.

As we celebrate our National Day this Sunday, let us work as independent thinkers and discuss constructively to achieve our common goal of living peacefully as a united, progressive, and stable nation.

I must observe that to collaborate and succeed in the process of any dialogue, we must activate our sense of wisdom and readiness to learn and the generosity to share what we know; use our abilities to negotiate and expand our capacity to accommodate divergent views; act with humility to acknowledge the truth and, if offended, have the good will to forgive; be patient enough to listen and be disciplined enough to withhold hurtful speech. Putting these into practice could mend fences, rather than break them. I encourage you to participate effectively in the discussions and pray that Allah bless our deliberations and all efforts aimed at making The Gambia a safer, better, and more progressive country for us all.

Thank you for your attention.

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