Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy
Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy

(JollofNews) – Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, Your majesties, your excellencies, heads of state and government, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, in the name of Allah, the Almighty, I bring you fraternal greetings from the people of the Islamic Republic of The Gambia.

At the outset, I wish to congratulate Mr. Peter Thomson, on his election to  the  high  and  coveted  position  of  President  of  the  Seventy-first Session  of  the  United  Nations  General  Assembly.  Your  election  is  an eloquent testimony to your diplomatic acumen and I assure you of the support of the Gambian delegation during your stewardship.

In   the   same   vein,   I   wish   to   express   deep   appreciation   to   your predecessor, Mr. Morgen Lykketoft, for the able and efficient manner in which  he  conducted  the  affairs  of  the  last  session  of  the  General Assembly. He will be remembered for the bold and major initiatives that were launched during his tenure as President.

I  also wish  to  extend  sincere  thanks to  Secretary-General  Ban  Ki-moon for  his  tireless  efforts  in  pursuit  of  world  peace  and  economic  progress over the last decade.

Mr. President, the  world  is  at  crossroads.  Since  our  last  General  Assembly,  global peace and security have steadily deteriorated. Wars in the Middle East have  intensified  with  alarming  ferocity  and  unprecedented  human casualties.  In  Africa,  fratricidal  wars  in  the  Horn  of  Africa  and  in  Libya, pose the greatest threat to peace and stability in the continent.

It  is  also  a  source  of  great  concern,  that  in  spite  of  the  dangerous situations  in  Syria,  Iraq  and  Libya,  geo-political  interests  continue  to over-ride  humanitarian  considerations.  Unless  concrete  action  is  taken now, places like Aleppo, Mosul and Tripoli will soon cease  to be human habitats.

In  Africa,  the  protracted  war  in  Somalia  and  the  armed  conflict between  political  rivals  in  South  Sudan  continue  to  blight  the  political landscape  with  untold  human  suffering.  To  complicate  an  already difficult  situation,  the  impasse  in  Darfur  and  the  frequent  outbreaks  of fighting  in  the  Central  African  Republic  and  Burundi,  pose  a  serious threat to the civilian population, particularly women and children.

I appeal to my brothers and sisters in these African countries to eschew violence  and  embrace  reconciliation.  As  leaders  of  our  people,  we must  always  remember,  that  history  will  only  judge  us  kindly,  if  we  are magnanimous  and  devoted  to  the  welfare  and  wellbeing  of  our people.

Mr. President, we    cannot    discuss    international    peace    and    security,    without addressing  the  lingering  and  unresolved Palestinian  problem.  The  time has   come;   indeed   it   is   long   overdue   for   Israel   to   heed   the overwhelming  international consensus  for  a  two  state  solution  as  the only viable option that can guarantee peaceful co-existence between Israel and Palestine.

Mr. President, the fragile peace we enjoy is  being seriously undermined by  terrorism, which  has  assumed  a  global  dimension,  killing  and  maiming  innocent people.  Today  we  remember  with  sadness  all  victims  of  terrorism  who have  been  gunned  down  or  maimed  by  bombs  in  Paris,  Brussels, Bamako,  Ouagadougou,  Pakistan  and  other  places.    It  is  not  an exaggeration  to  say  that  the  world  is  in  grave  danger  and  that  our human  existence  is  under  serious  threat.  Collective  action  is  the  best way to fight this global scourge.

We  are  also  gravely  concerned  that  certain  rogue  politicians  and pseudo  intellectuals  with  nefarious  intentions,  are using  the  terrorist card to revive and propagate the notion of a “clash of civilizations,” in which Islam is at war with the West. Their incendiary rhetoric lambasting Islam is unacceptable and can only serve to further polarize the world.

The evil actions  of a group of individuals claiming adherence to Islam, cannot  be  taken  to  represent  the  convictions  of  the  majority.  There  is no   clash   between   Islam   and   the   other   Abrahamic   religions   of Christianity  and  Judaism,  and  there  is  certainly  no  war  between  Islam and the world. We condemn the renegade forces of terrorism and we reject the campaign to create a nexus between terrorism and Islam.

Mr. President, while we express anxiety over global insecurity, we must equally focus on  global  economic  conditions. A  world  that  is  marked  by  disparities and  divided  into  zones  of  the  affluent  and  the  poor  cannot  enjoy durable   peace   and   security.   A   world   in   which   the   conspicuous consumption  of  the  few  over-shadows  the  abject  poverty  of  the majority, can only be a world of the powerful against the weak, and a world of mutual animosity, mistrust and tension.

Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy

It is for these reasons and our quest for a just and equitable world, that we  support  the  theme  of  this  year’s  General  Assembly:  “The Sustainable Development Goals, a universal approach to transform the world.” Under the Millennium Development Goals, the Islamic Republic of   The   Gambia   registered   significant   progress   in   its   development agenda.  I  am  happy  and  proud  to  state  that  hunger  has  been eradicated in our country and the level of under-nourishment has gone from  thirteen  percent  to  three  percent.      Our  ultimate  aim  is  to  make agriculture  attractive  and  profitable  through our “back to the land” policy, so that our people can work and live indignity.

The  future of  Africa  and  indeed  the  world  is  inextricably  linked  to women   and   the   youths.   Unfortunately,   Africa   is   losing   its   young population  because  of  migration.  Our  villages,  towns  and  cities  are being deserted as  youths  attempt  to sail to what is  wrongly perceived as the new El Dorado. Thousands have perished at sea while thousands more are languishing in detention centers in Europe.

This  is  an  unprecedented  depletion  of  our  human  resources  and  is bound   to   have   disastrous   consequences   if   allowed   to   continue. Against  this  disturbing  phenomenon,  international  cooperation  that would create  Jobs for the youths should no longer be a slogan, but a calculated strategy to keep them at home in gainful employment, that will  enhance  their  wellbeing  and  ensure  the  development  of  their countries.

Mr. President, the Paris Agreement on Climate change, which the Islamic Republic of The Gambia signed together with the entire membership of the United Nations,  is  a  landmark  event  in  our  human  evolution.  It  shows  that  in spite  of  the  imperfections  of  our  organization  and  our  ideological differences, we are capable of forging  a global partnership to resolve a  common  danger.  The  negotiations  were  protracted  and  at  times, acrimonious,  but  in  the  end,  our  common  desire  to  save  our  planet prevailed. I wish to pay tribute to all the men and women who worked with    dedication    and    sacrifice,    to    ensure    the    success    of    the negotiations.

Although  the  Paris  Agreement  on  Climate  Change  was  a  success,  its magnitude and  the complexities of other  challenges facing the world,  has again brought  into sharp focus, the role of the United Nations, and its capacity to address and advance international peace, security and development. This brings to mind the repeated calls by Member States for Security Council and broader UN reforms to enable the organization confront new and emerging challenges.

The  current  composition  of  the  Security  Council  with  five  permanent members  holding  veto  powers  is  undemocratic  and  the  system  is  akin to  minority  rule.  A  situation  in  which  five  countries  dictate  the  political and  economic  agenda  of  the  world  and  can  over-ride  international consensus by veto is indeed an anachronism.

Mr. President, Africa  has  the  highest  representation  in  the  General  Assembly,  yet  this continent  with  over  1.2  billion  people  has been  denied  the  right  to have a permanent seat in the Security Council. The Islamic Republic of The  Gambia  is  therefore  once  again  calling  for  the  expansion  of  the Security Council to facilitate the allocation to Africa of two permanent seats  with  veto  powers  and  two  other  non-permanent seats. Africa’s legitimate  demands  have  been  well  documented  and  articulated  in the Ezulwini consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

A  well-structured  and  fully  inclusive  United  Nations  is  what  the  world needs  and  Africa  is ready  to  take  its  rightful  place  and  play  a  more effective  role  in  world  affairs.  The  significance  of  the  reforms  being envisaged  calls  for  boldness  and  strong  leadership.  This  is  why  we attach great importance to the election of the next Secretary-General.

It  is  our  hope  that  he  or  she  will  combine  the  legacies  of  his  or  her predecessors with new qualities of vision, fair play and equity. We  expect  the  new  Secretary-General to be the people’s Secretary-General  and  not  the  servant  of  the  “Powerful  Five.”    The  Secretary-General  of  the  United  Nations  must  be  the  voice  of  the  voiceless  and the Chief Advocate of the people of the world.  We therefore look up to the new Secretary-General to provide a visionary leadership that will settle  old  problems  and disputes,  and  usher  in  a  new  era  of  peace, progress and prosperity.

Mr. President,failure to address and settle age-old injustices is responsible for some of our  major  problems  in  the  world  today.    Here,  I  am  referring  to  the historical  injustices  of  slavery,  the  slave  trade  and  colonialism.  For  far too long, slave  trading nations  and colonialists  have stubbornly defied good conscience to acknowledge the evil nature of their actions and atone  for  the  atrocities  that  were  committed  against  Africans  and People of African descent.

The  African  Continent  was  plundered  and  pillaged  while  millions  of  its inhabitants  were  trafficked  to  North  America  and  the  Caribbean.  For centuries,   they   were   exploited   through   slave  labor   in   plantations, feeding  the  industries of  the  slave-owning  countries.  These  acts  of enslavement  and  forced  labor  provide  empirical  evidence  that  the economic  foundation  of  western  economies  were  built  by  enslaved Africans.

There  is  also  irrefutable  evidence,  that  in  spite  of  providing  free  labor, African slaves suffered discrimination, exploitation, torture and death at the  hands  of  ruthless  owners.  The  effects  of  the  inhumane  treatment they suffered can be traced to their off-springs. Even today, the slavery syndrome continues to impact and shape the lives and circumstances of  Africans  and  people  of  African  descent.    To  us  who  are  affected, slavery is a painful legacy. Yet, there are those who question the merits of reparation.

Mr. President, although there are pleas of innocence, there have been notable pleas of guilt. In 2006, Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, apologized for his country’s role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In 2007, Ken Livingstone, the   Mayor   of   London   at   the   time,   acknowledged   that   wealth generated  from  the  slave  trade  was  responsible  for  the  economic prosperity of England.

But  perhaps  the  best  illustration  of  guilt  was  the  proposal  of  General William Sherman, that “every freed slave should be given forty acres and a mule as compensation.”  Sadly President Andrew  Jackson  and the United States Congress rejected the idea.
This   was   the   beginning   of   the   resistance   against   reparation.   Yet overtime,  America,  Britain,  Germany  and  Japan,  have  seen  the  need and  prudence  of  paying  reparations  for  crimes  committed  against other countries. Germany has paid $60 billion dollars to survivors of the Holocaust  and  there  is  the  Jewish  Reparation  Fund.  The  United  States has paid $20,000 each to ten thousand Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps.

Similarly,   the   United   States   compensated   native   tribes   for   broken treaties.  Japan  has  paid  World  War II  reparations  to  its  former  colonial possessions such as Korea. It should also be noted, that Britain has paid reparation  to  the  Maoris  of  New  Zealand  for  damage  done  during colonial times. More recently, Iraq has paid compensation to Kuwait for damages it caused during its invasion and occupation of that country in  1990.  Why  then  should  Africans  and  People  of  African  descent  be ineligible  for  reparation,  after  suffering  the  historic  injustices  of  slavery, the  slave  trade  and  colonialism?  Apart  from  historical  precedence, there  is  merit  in  the  call  for  reparation  for  damages  caused  during colonialism.

Many of the problems confronting former colonies today are the direct consequences  of  actions  by  former  colonial  powers.  A  vivid  example of  how  colonizers  destroyed  Africa  is  the  way  in  which  the  continent was  divided  and  shared.  The  balkanization  of  Africa  did  not  respect the   territorial   integrity   of   countries   nor   did   they   consider   tribal boundaries or trade routes.

The  division  of  Africa  was  arbitrary,  taking  only  into  account,  the  best interests  of  the  colonizers.  As  a  result  the  geography  of  countries  was altered.  Kit  and  kin  separated,  customs  and  traditions  destroyed  and the  most  valuable  artifacts  carted  away  to  western  museums.  Africa was indeed torn apart, its people displaced and disintegrated and the continent weakened forever.

Reparation is therefore justified because it would demonstrate remorse and  symbolize  the  healing  of  the  wounds  of  colonialism.  Reparation would  also  be  an  effective  way  to  correct  the  global  economic imbalances caused by colonialism.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, it is with a sense of mission and guided by moral imperatives, that I urge this General Assembly to accept the case of slavery and colonialism as a  global  issue,  which  should  be  redressed  without  equivocation.  The African Union has given the matter its full support and all well-meaning people   around   the   world   expect   a   favorable   response   from   the International Community to this legitimate course.

In  preparation  for  the  discussions  and  debates  that  are  expected  to follow,   we   recently   concluded   consultations at   an   International Colloquium  in  Banjul,  where  a  road  map  has  been  reflected  on  the way forward.
Already,  the  African  Group  at  the  United  Nations  is  working  on  a resolution on slavery, the slave trade, colonialism and reparation to be tabled before this august body during this session. I appeal to you all to support  the  adoption  of  this  resolution  and  restore  the  dignity  of  our African ancestors.

I enjoin you  to use  this  opportunity  to address the burning issues  of our time. The people of the world are in need of durable peace. We need inclusive  dialogue  to  resolve  our  differences  and  forge  partnerships that  will  improve  our  human  condition.  The  security  of  our  world  can only be assured if we establish genuine and friendly relations based on mutual respect for the dignity of our people and the sovereignty of our nations.

I  thank  you  all  for  your  attention  and  wish  you  a  successful  General Assembly.

This speech was delivered byVce President Isatou Njie-Saidy on behalf of President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York