ROOTS 2008 BEGINS - Little Gambia a Beacon of Hope-Jammeh
Monday, June 02, 2008
"We Africans have to liberate ourselves and have pride of what we are, as we Africans are the grand-fathers of the rest of humanity. We have to equally change our attitudes.
We can only free ourselves from mental slavery by focusing on Africa and work towards its unification and development. The 21st Century is ours. Let us protect our territory for Africans in Africa and Africans in the diaspora. The Gambia, the Smiling Coast of Africa and a beckon of hope is ready to work with all African countries.
If we believe in God and not alien idols, then we will restore our lost glory", urged President Jammeh in an inspirational speech, as he officially declared open the 9th edition of the International Roots Homecoming Festival, on Saturday at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.
Instituted in 1996 by the Jammeh administration first as an annual event, and latterly as a biennial event, the festival is with a view to building bridges between Africans and those in the diaspora for meaningful cooperation and also to promote cultural tourism.
The 9th edition of the International Roots Festival on the theme 'celebrating unity through culture' is an opportune moment when quite apart from showcasing the unity in diversity of our cultures, we are able to reflect upon our common problems as Africans and our common aspirations, draw inspiration from our commonalities in historical and cultural terms, and thus, devise strategies and programmes of action that will be geared towards the full realisation of our potentials as a people and as a continent.
According to President Jammeh, the celebration was to observe a sad event for Africans who stood up with their shoulders high for African liberation. He cited the Africans who were taken away whom one never expected will survive and later survive sslavery. He stated "the world is three days-yesterday, today and tomorrow, No matter how big or small, pleasant or unpleasant, rich or poor, the world is three days. It is what happen yesterday, that's what we celebrate today and what we do today determines who we are tomorrow".
He then clearly stated that The Gambia is not instituting the festival to attract investors or tourist but to tell the whole world that never will the African be a slave again. He then gave a detailed history of The Gambia saying "Gambia is one of the oldest countries and biggest but today small. Thanks to the illegal occupation of the colonial masters.
But today, no matter what, we will never be colonized again. Africans of today will never be slaves anymore. This is what we are celebrating and trying to showcase to the whole world".
The distinguished chief patronage of the 2008 International Roots Festival then observed that there are so many types of slavery saying " if Africans think they are totally free from slavery, we are fooling ourselves. To ensure that we are free, we have to liberate ourselves and have an African pride. Some people believe that Jesus was black. No, he was not. He was born in Jerusalem and went back to Jerusalem.
Prophets were sent to nations that sinned against God. The fact that there was no black prophet send to deliver a message from God to blacks was for the fact that we were always rightful. Therefore, we Africans have always obeyed Allah that is why there was no black messenger send to us. Africans are the grand-fathers of the rest of humanity and we will always survive".
To the colonialists, President Jammeh stated that during colonialism, the West fooled Africans that education was better than silver and gold. "Because we believed them, the evil colonialist took all our diamonds and gold at a time when we Africans were busy looking for education. By the time we Africans turned round, we realized that we were baffled by the colonialists.
Today they are not telling us that, but instead they talk of democracy which they cannot teach Africans. How can people who colonized and enslaved others tell us about democracy? We were patient with them during colonial rule but even at that time if Mali and Nigeria were fused, it was bigger than little Europe" he said.
The Gambian leader then observed that today, all the conflicts in Africa are found in mineral rich countries and during the course of the conflict, the West will be taking away all the mineral resources. He then called on Africans to liberate themselves and move forward. He implored on those in the diaspora to stay with them and fight for their total liberation saying " the 21st Century is ours and we will make sure that you are free. Let us protect our territory for Africans in Africa, and Africans in the diaspora. We are ready to work with all African countries. If we believe in our God and not the others idols, then we will restore our lost glory" President Jammeh concluded.
For her part, Nancy S Njie, secretary of state for Tourism and Culture said the International Roots Festival is not just a cultural celebration, but also a platform on which Africans can build linkages and forge the ties that will bring us closer together as Africans, amidst great collaboration in all fields of human endeavor that are crucial to our emancipation politically, economically and socially.
She urged Africans to strive for those ideals that were the hallmarks of the philosophy of our forbears- Martin Luther King, Nkrumah, Sekou, Toure, Lumumba, Cabral- the total liberation and unification of Africans wherever they may be today on the face of this earth. "The festival events are diverse, as are the venue's of the activities and I have no doubt that during your sojourn with us, you will come to terms with the warmth, friendliness and hospitality of The Gambia People.
You will also no doubt have the opportunity to savour the sights and sounds of our country, and take back fond memories of your visits. We are also very hopeful that those of you who are coming from the diaspora will become good Ambassadors of The Gambia, and we look forward to welcoming you here again and again in future Roots Festivals, while urging more people to come and be a part of the grand family reunion and cultural manifestation" she said.
SoS Njie then expressed hope that as the slogan of this year's festival so aptly puts it, people will be able to celebrate African unity through culture. She congratulated the National Organising Committee for their tireless efforts and diligence in ensuring the successful organisation of the festival. She also congratulated the cultural troupes, youth and women groups, Yai Compins, supporters, well wishers and the entire Gambian national for coming out in large numbers to support a very worthy national cause.
She acknowledge the presence of those in the diaspora describing it as not only a true mark of solidarity, but a cogent testimony to the principles of understanding, unity and support that characterise our relationships as well as the firm belief in the principles of equality, cross- cultural understanding and international peace.
Momodou C Joof, chairman of the National Co-ordinating Committee, acknowledged the personal commitment of President Jammeh and his government towards this biennial event. He stated that the cultural fraternity has no doubt that The Gambia is a cultural giant in Africa noting that since the assumption of President Jammeh to office in 1994, he has been championing the promotion of culture to enable people be united and those in the diaspora to come through spiritual pilgrimage to their origins.
He then observed that the festival continues to gain momentum since it was instituted. "It will greatly help Africans in the diaspora to come back to the home of their ancestors" he said noting that since the inception to date, it has not only attracted cultural performances but will also contribute meaningfully to the development of the nation. "Culture is the foundation and bedrock to any national development" he said and saluted President Jammeh for his personal support. He also welcomed the delegates from the diaspora and expressed hope that they will share a lot in The Gambia.
Speaker Fatoumatta Jahumpa-Ceesay, secretaries of state, other top government officials as well as other distinguish personalities graced the opening. Present where where also the special delegation from the United States of America led by Mayor Walter Porter from Alabama, Mrs Dorren Lawrence and delegation from the United Kingdom, Watusi John Grech from the African Poetry Charter in the USA, the Minister of Culture of the republic of Guinea Bissau and delegates from Venezuela, Senegal, Mauritania, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry, Nigeria, Mauritania and Mali.
Author: by Alhagie Jobe