Tens of thousands of Gambians from different walks of life on Wednesday gathered at the Independence Stadium in Bakau to celebrate the day when the British flag, Union Jack, was lowered and the Gambian flag hoisted.
It was the 50th anniversary, also known as the Golden Jubilee, since The Gambia attained independence from Britain on 18 February 1965.
The celebration of this day was witnessed by several foreign dignitaries, including the president of Ghana, who is also the chairman of Ecowas, John Dramani Mahama; the president of Guinea Bissau, José Mário Vaz; the president of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as well as the vice president of Nigeria, Namadi Sambo.The former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the prime minister of Senegal, Mohammed Dionne, were also in attendance.
Speaking on the occasion, the Gambian leader, President Yahya Jammeh, paid tribute to the former Gambian leader, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, and other African leaders who fought against colonialism in Gambia and Africa as a whole.
President Jammeh also paid homage to Pierre S. Njie, IM Garba Jahumpa and other nationalist politicians who liberated the Gambia from Britain.
President Jammeh said it was his take over on 22nd July 1994 that salvaged the Gambian economy from near collapse and turned it to an emerging economy.
He reiterated his commitment to turn The Gambia into an economic super-power.
He promised to build more universities in addition to the University of The Gambia and make all levels of education, including university education, in The Gambia, free by 2020.
In the same vein, Jammeh said by 2025, all the regions of the country will have a tertiary hospital well-equipped with facilities needed to make it a modern hospital.
The Gambian leader said all developments in the country would not have been possible without the development partners who believed in him and his government.
To mark the Golden Jubilee, a series of events were scheduled including laying of foundation stones for the trans-Gambia bridge, Gambia International Airlines complex on Friday and Saturday respectively.
President Jammeh stated further: On behalf of every Gambian, my family and on my own behalf, I take this opportunity to thank all our distinguished guests for coming to join us to celebrate this important day in the annals of our country’s history. The government and people of The Gambia appreciate the fact that all of you have been able to make the time out of your very busy schedules to accept our invitation to grace this important occasion.
As history is at times written in terms of decades, the accomplishment of five decades of self-rule is indeed worth celebrating as a collective polity. Generally termed Golden Jubilee, we thank Allah (SWT) that we have some golden social-economic achievements to showcase, and the commitment to reflect on the significance of the event. We do so with the objective to consolidate our achievements, and to transform our constraints and challenges into advantages and opportunities to accelerate the pace of development.
Thus, the theme of this address is a discourse on my Governments path to transform The Gambia into an economic superpower. Colonialism was an attempt to halt the internal development process of the peoples of the colonies. It was an exploitive system interested in securing monopoly on raw materials and markets, established through violence, coercion and the usurpation of political power. We, however, recall with pride and dignity that the colonized people, in general, and Africans, in particular, were determined to stop colonization through civil resistance and even armed confrontation.
Therefore, on this historic day we will pay tribute to the leaders of African independence movement and the masses that served as their support base. In spite of the fact that most of them are of blessed memory, their sacrifice, valour and patriotism are still sources of inspiration for us to continue, redirect and refocus the struggle for total political and socio-economic emancipation.
We salute them not only for their triumphant stewardship of the independence movement, but for their search and rediscovery of our common African identity that colonialism sought to destroy through balkanization of the continent.
In this regard, I must pay homage to Edward Francis Small whose pioneering efforts my government has recognized and immortalized by renaming the then RVTH after him. We also pay tribute to his other colleagues of blessed memory namely, Rev. John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, I.M. Garba Jahumpa of Muslim Congress Party, and Pierre S. Njie of the United Party, all of whom in one way or the other struggled to end colonial exploitation.
Our homage also goes to the first Prime Minister and later became the first President of the Republic of the Gambia, Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, and his colleges of the Peoples Progressive Party for their decisive role in The Gambias independence. We also pay tribute to public servants down the years who with admirable competence replaced the departing British administrators and groomed their juniors to successively rise to the challenge of running a civil service.