22 years ago, The Gambia was in a protracted slumber, all but teetering on the brink of a failed state status. However, what happened shortly after, specifically in July 1994 changed our fate forever. What then became a Red letter day is still repeating itself today, not in the main, but everything else.
Yet stark resemblance between the July of 1994 and that of 2016, in their weeks and days is just amazing. I think the numbers are saying something…
I attempted to piece together the 22-22-22, i.e. 22 reasons for celebrating 22 years of the July 22 revolution.
1 THE MAGIC IN THIS YEAR’S 22 JULY: Have you observed that the July of 1994 as well as 2006 began with Fridays, have 5 Fridays in them, with both 22 Julys coinciding with Friday. Of course, the architect of the day also didn’t change. What a coincidence! This calls for celebration.
2 Indeed, this country has never seen its health sector developed to such heights. The accessibility of the healthcare services by anybody within the confines of this country is in itself a cause for celebration. We are now healthier than ever before!
3 Perhaps, what the education sector saw in terms of advancement is unique. Aside from the massive enrollment of poor and underprivileged children, we have schools scattered around the country like never before, thanks to the revolution. The cherry on the cake is the University of The Gambia, a centre of excellence and citadel of knowledge that continues to build the nation’s brain bank.
4 I’ll quote a mentor Mr Kebba Dibba who said, “When the airwaves are liberated, information is power, and communication is the means by which that power is powered and utilized”. Take the Television for example, you will come to realize that it does not only open the floodgates of information, it imbues a sense of nationalism and self-worth in Gambians, coupled with the relevant information it provides on the numerous developments shaping our lives.
5 In transportation, the strong social structure facilitated through excellent road networks across the country is sufficiently a strong cause worthy of celebrations.
6 The Gambia’s airport infrastructure, which is ranked among the top in the subregion and the expansion project which is fast making our airport the best in the subregion, is another milestone achievement that cannot be overlooked. Among all airports in Africa, ours comes first in design and service.
7 Financial capability is a core principle of state development. Financial institutions including banks are almost everywhere, giving citizens access to their hard-earned monies anytime, anywhere. This was a dream before 1994.
8 Water forms the basis of the human makeup and a prerequisite for survival life. Today, there is no community in this country that does not have access to portable, clean drinking water. We have seen places where human waste like urine is recycled to quench the thirst of the growing population. Fortunately for us, we have the purest of water at our doorstep; all thanks to this revolution.
9 The rural electrification project is gaining momentum across the country and you need no guide or statistics to see how the lives of our families in the hinterland are being transformed, credit to the July 22nd Revolution.
10 Telecommunications was a luxury then, with inter-connectivity among people at its lowest in human history. With the highest level of the rural-urban drift The Gambia was experiencing, the only means of communication for was letters and audio cassettes, with telephone headset reserved for the privileged few. Now, aside from the national GSM operator which we can celebrate, we have Gambian owned operators that are flourishing in an even business environment created by the government.
11 Where peace and security reign, development takes shape. This has been the epitome of The Gambia since July 1994. Gambians and our friends in our land strive, work and pray daily because of the security and peace we enjoy; that deserves to be celebrated.
12 After ensuring the prevalence of peace, our able government laid the foundation for agriculture, with a farmer president who leads the ‘grow what you eat, eat what you grow’ philosophy. This ‘self-help initiative’ has transformed many lives. Also, with the vision 2016 taking shape in an unimaginable fashion, what more can we ask for? THANK YOU OUR FARMER PRESIDENT.
13 The President’s Empowerment of Girls’ Education Project is another important milestone but even greater and hardly unnoticeable are the thousands of students sponsored by the Head of State annually, most of whom are the pride of their families and valuable assets for national development. Such moves championed by our leadership deserve a pat on the back.
14 In The Gambia, when it comes to politics you can argue that all is not perfect, but actually, is there anywhere that all is perfect? Not even in India. The mere fact that our multi-party democracy is able to survive the test of time 22 years on deserves a red carpet reception.
15 Diplomacy and Foreign Policy remain a cardinal area of our government, having pursued and achieved the Gambia’s interest at every stage of our interaction with the international community. Our principles of win-win, based on mutual trust and respect continue to attract serious and like- minded nations like China to renew diplomatic cooperation with The Gambia.
16 Islam, which is the core religion in this country, has never seen better days. Where children with the mastery of Quran recitation can become millionaires overnight. Undoubtedly, Allah’s favors will descend on us. We owe His Excellency our gratitude to celebrate this blessing.
17 The Gambia saw her heydays in culture; its preservation and promulgation, is in no era greater than during the 22 years of this revolution. We hosted international cultural festivals, reclaimed our roots by renaming James Island as Kunta Kinteh Island and rolled out an expansive programme, which saw culture and ecotourism blossomed. Hands down to our President for the foresight and vision.
18 When I was in primary school, The Gambia’s only identifiable national resources were groundnut and cotton. After 22 years, our dynamic government is able to discover oil within the shores of the country, capable of uplifting our status from an underdevelopment status. What else can we say to this except ALHAMDULILAHI.
19 Now more than ever before, Gambians have at their disposal the facilities to study technical as well as vocational skills, without having to worry about certification. Before, those who couldn’t cut it at the conventional schools have to settle as being a liability. Now, even the very brightest are opting for the TVET due to its richness and relevance. This has injected a new lease of life into the youthful community and gave equal opportunity to those with inclination for vocational skills. Thank you Mr. President for this opportunity.
20 Sometimes it is not about what you did with your own hands that represent your success. Sometimes God Himself makes things happen in your life without your efforts. Have you ever thought that The Gambia would one day be rubbing shoulders with the very best in world sports? Well, in the past 22 years, we clinched the African U-17 Championship in 2005, played in last 16 of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada. Significant strides were equally recorded in other sporting disciplines around the world including the London Paralympics. All these happened in these 22 years
21 Finally, the wellbeing of our dear leader in order for him to continue steering the affairs of this country for 22 years with Allah’s guidance and growing success in our lives is a sine-qua-non, worth celebrating and being grateful for. May Allah continue to watch over him and the first family so he could preside over more and more groundbreaking developments.
22 To conclude, I have to admit that the noble vision that underpins the successes of modern day Gambia can and must be credited to His Excellency President Jammeh. However, the ultimate success of the July 22nd revolution, in all fairness and sincerity, should be tied to the industriousness of the Gambian people. Our people for the past 22 years have and continue to exhibit unreserved loyalty, patriotism and dedication behind a party and leader, whose vision for their wellbeing they hold dear and supreme. Isn’t this too worth celebrating ? I believe yes.
By Alhaji Abubakar Darbo, Head of Administration GRTS; Assoc. CIPD, MA, BSc, MRG