President Yahya Jammeh of the Republic of The Gambia has called on Africans in the mother continent and in the Diaspora to take charge of their own destinies. He laments that for too long Africans have allowed other people to define for them who they were, how they should live and allowed foreigners to trample on our cultures turning us into zombies that they can manipulate.
Speaking in an exclusive interview ahead of the next African Union Heads of State Summit that will take place in The Gambia on July 1-2, 2006, President Jammeh said this was a golden opportunity for all Africans at home and abroad to come together to analyze African problems and provide solutions for them. He said Europeans met in Berlin in 1884 and partitioned Africa and no African was represented in that meeting, he said now is the time for Africa to take ownership of its own development agenda.
President Jammeh was being interviewed in a one-hour talk show program broadcast by African Broadcasting Network – America (ABN) hosted by Mshale’s Editor and Publisher, Tom Gitaa. The Gambia leader said it was incumbent upon Africans to stop joining the bandwagon of those criticizing their leaders and bring to the table ideas that will help rescue Africa from the dehumanizing colonial past.
He said while Europe is uniting under the banner of the European Union (EU) forming a common market, single currency and one Parliament, Africa has continued to waste time fighting useless wars instead of forging unity under an atmosphere of peace and stability.
“Africa is the richest continent in mineral resources, there is no mineral you cannot find in Africa. Asia has only one quarter of Africa’s riches,” he said emphatically. He went on “it is African resources that built Europe and America. Africa has the necessary resources to achieve economic development, all we need is proper resource management, and an educated workforce to attain prosperity.”
Speaking about African culture, he said it was the duty of all Africans to take pride in their roots as it is through our culture that defines who we are, and is the source of strong moral values and has been responsible of building strong empires and societies. For eight years running, Gambia has supported the annual Roots International Cultural Festival that showcases our roots, cultural dimensions that determine what is good and bad, good behavior such as respect for elders, authorities etc for “a people without a culture is like a tree without roots."
President Jammeh said it was in the best interest for all Africans regardless of where they are to identify themselves as Africans. He said the Jewish people of Israel are strong because every Jew considers himself an Israelite and we should be like the Jews in being proud of our background. He said those who are outside the African continent must always look back and contribute to development at home.
Speaking about achievements attained under a development program dubbed “Gambia Vision 2020”, he said under his leadership tremendous progress has been made as opposed to 400 years of waste under the colonial British administration. He said through consultations of the people, a roadmap was drawn and priorities determined. The cornerstone for the development agenda was education, health and agriculture, and then followed by development of the infrastructure.
By making the development plan a product of the people giving them its ownership, it has been possible to attain sustainable development through exercising zero tolerance on corruption and effective resource management, he maintained.
“For us, electricity is a priority and the whole country will have electric power. Already by September this year, 95% of the country will enjoy electricity and as of now 80% of Gambia has tape water and we aim at providing pipe water for the entire country.”
Commenting on the scourge of HIV-AIDS that has ravaged much of Africa, he said lack of peace and stability and ignorance has contributed to its spread. He was however encouraged that because of the massive media campaign that has created awareness of the size of the pandemic to our communities, we are fighting back to contain its spread. “As Africa continues to engage in endless wars, squalid conditions in war ravaged areas give rise to destitution, and these poor conditions in refugee camps tend to fuel the spread of the disease.”
Commenting on the recent good performance of the Gambia youth soccer team under 17, the President said “when people are united behind any activity, that activity will succeed.” He said the team was able to move to the apex because the people of Gambia were behind it and it was now their duty to persevere so that the position of our team should remain at the apex, or else we can slip back to ground zero again.
He said Africans must have confidence in themselves, “look inwards as Africans” to unleash our potential in order to succeed, retain ownership of our development agenda, maintain peace and stability, forge unity in the continent and move forward to realize the rich endowments that our continent has been blessed with.
He said we have to give our children good education so that they are transformed into an enlightened workforce that will help our continent harness its vast resources, forge unity, and create peace and stability necessary for the attainment of economic prosperity.
Quoting a Gambia proverb to emphasize African pride, he said “no matter how long a log stays in water, it does not turn into a crocodile.” He said Africans at home and abroad should forever be proud to be Africans.
The interview was part of a series of special interviews that Tom Gitaa did for ABN-America during a two week visit to The Gambia. The interviews were to be aired during a special weeklong presentation of Gambia Week on Talking Drum, the signature program he hosts. He accompanied ABN-America CEO, Dr. Christian Akale and Mr. Lamin Dibba, Vice-President for Programming. The three person team was in The Gambia to make preparations for ABN’s coverage of the African Union summit in Banjul. ABN has the summit rights for the US market.
ABN-America is available nationwide in the United States including Hawaii,Alaska and Puerto Rico on Dish Network Channel 749.
About Swallehe Msuya
Swallehe Msuya was a senior staff writer at Mshale with extensive media experience in his native Tanzania. He was a general assignments writer. Investigative stories that Mshale undertook were normally his responsibility. Swallehe passed away in Sept. 2009 at the age of 61. Mshale will forever miss his tenacity and wisdom.
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