My fellow countrymen and women,
today we stand tall, proud and free, thanks to our forefathers and mothers who risked their lives and all for the freedom you and I enjoy today.
I always wondered what it’s like to set off on a journey, having secured your freedom from an oppressive and abusive status quo that came into your life, manipulated you, took your wealth, forced you to change your religion, your name, your way of life, called you ape, foolish, prone to flashing your teeth stupidly and singing all the time.
I always wondered what it’s like, upon the breaking of your shackled, to set off not knowing where you are going, but utterly euphoric that you are going somewhere. I wasn’t there when it happened 54 years ago, but I got caught up in the journey years later.
Along the way, we, the people journeying have continued to fight, trying to figure out exactly which way the road ought to take us, where to clear a new path, who to lead us, how to resolve our internal disputes, what to do when faced with new external enemies.
Mamudu: New generations – the Bokar Bah, Demba Ngange, Lala Touray, Abdoulie Drammeh and the Kexx Sanneh generation, the dot comers – have confluence the journey started by the colonial generation, like tributaries joining a river that still hasn’t poured its waters into a known destination. And with every new generation, the trek towards creating a nation continues. Who are we? What holds us together? How do we fit in the global identity?
I believe, for the journey to make sense, it must be viewed as the journey of families, of individuals, and of communities, before it is viewed as the journey of a nation. On this 54th year of travel, individuals have accomplished much, families have grown and abandoned prejudices, and in many ways, our place of pride is stamped among the nations.
Yes, we have had our foolish, violent, careless, desperate moments. Much remains unresolved. The linen of greed and apathy still covers the heads of displaced families, reminding us of a mission unaccomplished.
Doctors, farmers and teachers are in protest, having been pushed to the edge of the road where thorns and thistles prick and scratch away at their labor. The mighty shove the weak, taking up huge chunks of the road while traveling in immoral comforts.
Children skip, eyes wide with bubbling innocence and energy that makes us soar once again from a weary place. Others shuffle, some die. It is for them, always for them, that we keep journeying. We move forward with a burning hope only known to those that understand freedom.
We are Gambians upon this journey, may we walk with great consideration for all so that in our darkest hours, we still feel brave, unafraid, unshackled.
The frustrations many Gambians have with the way we have managed the affairs of our country over the last 54 years of independence is understandable. But this should not move us away from commemorating our Independence Day and honoring the heroic efforts and sacrifices of so many men and women who gave everything to secure the independence of our country.
The freedom and the human dignity we have enjoyed in the last 54 years came at a huge price to the many men and women, and families of the Gambia and must never be taken for granted but rather cherished and guarded jealously.
Edward Francis Small voice of conscience slogan campaigning and demand of other patriotic sons and daughters of the Gambia chanted “we want right and justice, “we want bread and butter “against the colonialists, the “bread and butter” came about known as “the bread and butter demonstration” in the Gambia gave birth, national consciousness and nationalism for self-rule.
Taxation without representation, ‘bread and butter’ demonstrations, strikes and hunger strike against penny a day labor! What horror! How inhuman! Freedom now, and not a day later.
On this day I salute all our gallant men and women who fought for this independence. I salute our founding father and the first Republican President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. We salute Edward Francis Small, Momodou Ebrima Jallow (commonly known as Jallow Jallow,Alhagie Cham Joof, Sheriff Sekouba Sisay, Sheriff Mustapha, Dibba, Alieu Badara Njie, Amang Kanyi,Seyfo Omar Mbakeh, Kalilu Singhateh,Famara Wassa Touray,Paul L. Baldeh, Pierre Sarr N’Jie I. A. S. Burang John,Kebba W. Foon I. M. Garba Jahumpa, Philip Bridge,F. D. C. Williams.K. J. W. Lane,Rev. J. C. Faye, Sir John Paul, Sir John Martin, J. M. Kirsch,H. Steel R. G. Pettitt and all those that died for this freedom we are enjoying today.
As we commentate this important milestone, I urge all of you to introspect and give serious thought to the Gambia you would love to see at 54 years of independence. Is this the Gambia our forefathers would have loved to see? 54 years after independence: Are we on the trajectory of true and prudent development? Have we guarded our sovereignty jealously and strategically or have we surrendered it to our capricious whims and greed?
Are we still in charge of our destiny and our national assets? Are we still promoting jobs and recruitments for Gambians in the Gambia and Gambians in the Diaspora? Are our values, attitudes and practices 54 years after independence reflective of the magnanimity of the Gambia we have always prided in?
Our Independence is only meaningful if it is anchored on the values of social, economic and political justice, rule of law, democratic governance, and the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights of all the citizens of the land. We are Gambians upon this journey, may we walk with great consideration for all so that in our darkest hours, we still feel brave, unafraid and unshackled.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we celebrate and introspect on these values, let us find solutions within ourselves to remedy the wrongs and ills of our society. But this is only possible in an environment of tolerance and respect for one another.
Together you and I can build the Gambia we want. If our fore fathers did it, you and I can equally do it. Yes… I believe that you and I can. Let’s believe together. Happy Independence Day Gambia.