The Kotu Park situated in Kotu is in the process of revitalization as service members from the United States HSV-Swift together with the Gambia Navy and US Embassy staff and the community yesterday cleared the place which was abandoned for some time and turned into a bush.
The US Navy vessel arrived in the Gambia for a weeklong training exercise and to take part in various outreach projects to benefit the local community. At the Kotu Park they were engaged in clearing bush, collect trash, paint and perform other maintenance work at the park.
In his welcoming remarks, the Mayor of the Kanifing Municipal Council Yankuba Colley said, he gets discouraged when he comes around the Kotu Park for he feels that the purpose of the park has been defeated. He said the park was given to the community in 1996 well paved, decorated with flowers and functioning lights but for some time everything looks awkward. He told the community of Kotu that the park belongs to them and they are the only ones who can make the place look good for everybody to be happy. "You are the very people who can also turn it around to the other site and I believe for this time you will take proper care of this park KMC have started", he said. The KMC Mayor commended both the US and Gambia Navy for clearing the park and make it a wonderful place. He appealed to anyone who wants to help re-face the area to make it a permanent useable place for the people living in the community. He appealed to the US Embassy to also help them revive the whole area. He described his municipality as the most populated municipality in the country; noting that about one quarter of the population is living in the municipality and expressing opinion that ninety per cent of foreigners are staying in his municipality. This, he went on, is why it sometimes look rough for the council to do certain activities. He added that considering their revenue base and population, his municipality needs help.
For his part, the US Ambassador in the Gambia Edward N Alford said their effort has shown the very best of the community and the youths of the Gambia. He added that it is a strong testimony for the value of cooperation by combining the talents, the efforts, the skills, Gambians, Americans, military, civilian, embassies; noting that they have achieved something remarkable which they can build on in other areas too. The process of renewal of people coming together to take something and make it better, a selfless service for the community, it speaks of the best of human nature when one does something like that, he said. Ambassador Alford called on the community to continue on the effort they have started, adding that "the park can be a wonderful place for all the people, for children to play, for members of the community to come together to socialize, to meet one another, to discuss things but that will depend on building on the collaboration today, a continuing effort to not only maintain but improve the park and I heard you lord mayor and I look forward for finding ways for us to help you with this effort".
The American Ambassador described the youths of the country as the most important. He said they have a lot of challenges and also lot of opportunities ahead of them. "Education is vital, what you learn in school will carry them far in this world but would not carry you the whole way what you learn from your community by participating in your community, by talking with elders, members of the government, by participating in projects like this, the lessons you learn here are the other site of education, outside of the books and the computers are equally valuable,' He concluded.
Speaking earlier, Commander Charles Eaton said they are here to participate in Africa Partnership Station which is a navy led multilateral effort to improve safety and security in maritime environment throughout Africa. He said in addition to the United States they have partners in Europe and Africa that participate in various programs that they conduct. Commander Eaton added that as part of their program this week there will be training to be conducted by not only Americans but also African and European partners with the Gambia Armed Forces. This according to him is a partnership and partnership is built on an ability to cooperate and a sense of trust between the different parties. "It is part of our mission and something that we willing want to do when we are coming to a country to be able to help build bridges to be able to help build those relationships so that moving forward we can continue to maintain our collaboration for security and for the general improvement of lives throughout the region,' he noted. He described this event as an example where they are able to come together to work with the staff from the African Partnership Station but also with their navy brothers from the Gambia Navy and with the local community to do something that they hope that everyone can benefit from in the long term.