Gambians in Cuba on February 18th, 2013 commemorated the country's 48th year of self-determination in the form of a reception hosted by the Embassy.
Organised under the stewardship of The Gambia's ambassador to that country, His Excellency Masanneh N. Kinteh, the celebration accorded Gambians resident in Cuba the unique opportunity to reflect on the path the country has taken over the past 48 years, but more so the gigantic developments registered by the 18 years of the Jammeh administration. Such a celebration also availed them the opportunity to renew their commitment to national development through patriotism and a sense of nationalism.
Leading the day's celebration, Ambassador Masanneh Kinteh, a former chief of Defence Staff of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), paid glowing tribute to the distinguished ambassadors, representatives of various missions and consulates accredited to Cuba for rejoicing with them the country's 48 years of nationhood. "We feel immensely honoured that on this happy day we have been granted the privilege to host distinguished guests from the MINREX and other institutions in Cuba and the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, who I wish to profoundly thank for accepting our invitation to join us in our celebrations. Your presence in our midst on such a joyous day, dear Excellencies, is indeed very highly appreciated," Kinteh stated.
The Gambia's chief diplomat in Cuba described the day as significant, in that 48 years ago Gambians gained political independence from the United Kingdom. But what that achievement meant, according to Ambassador Kinteh is that Gambians won a moment for themselves to direct and take charge of their own affairs.
"The significance of this historic day dawns on us in various ways and from several perspectives. Key among these are the opportunities it accords us to look over our shoulders critically and objectively with a view to assessing our achievements and shortcomings, renewing our commitment to the nation and ourselves, revitalising our resolve as well as reviewing our obligations, duties and development agenda," he told the Gambians,the diplomatic corps and other invited dignitaries in Havana.
Kinteh underscored that the day is a moment to reflect on what citizens should do better, with added vigour and perseverance to move The Gambia forward.
"It is therefore a moment for individual as well as collective soul- searching for answers to questions of what we must do in order to overcome the daunting challenges and the unending task of nation building. Importantly, the true meaning of 'independence' and 'nationhood' can be wholesomely appreciated only when we can cogently and aptly tie these to our dignity and relevance on the global stage as a people. Within this framework, political independence - with all its ramifications - cannot be divorced from the scale, scope, depth and level of development it generates and the value it adds to the life of each individual that is directly affected by it," he remarked.
"If stock is taken of government's interventions in all key areas that have a bearing on the development of our beloved nation," Kinteh went on, "acknowledgement will be made, even by our greatest critics, of the giant strides and remarkable achievements we have made in recent years." Confidently, he asserted that all well-meaning Gambians, and non-Gambians alike, who are familiar with events in The Gambia, will attest to the fact that over the past 18 years since the peaceful military takeover and transition to democracy, The Gambia has seen unprecedented progress and development.
"The colossal investments into infrastructural development; the huge expansion of social services countrywide, particularly in the areas of energy, education, health and agriculture; the institutional development registered within both the public and private sectors; the opportunities created, especially for the youth, girls and women, are too conspicuous to refute and stand testimony to the current Administration's genuine determination to transform our country into a highly developed middle income country which all Gambians and non Gambians alike would live with pride, dignity, peace and social justice," he stated.
Since the advent of the Second Republic in July 1994, according to the veteran military officer cum diplomat, the APRC government has embarked upon a development philosophy that is grounded in the conviction that genuine commitment and love for one's people cannot be momentary but spontaneous and never-ending.
"The APRC government has taken this position because as a country, our development agenda is tied to an overall goal, a common vision and unity of purpose. For us, the subscription to the drive for 'development with a vision for the creation of a great nation' is our guiding principle and source of inspiration. As a government, we believe that development is for humankind. It revolves around people, and is measured through them and their environment. Development is, therefore, a qualitative outcome that disrupts cycles, trends or pattern of unfavourable social, economic and political conditions. Thus, it precipitates a historical transformation of a people's state of being for the better. These are the underlying factors of our vision for development in The Gambia," he stated.
Commenting on the bilateral relations that tied Banjul and Havana since year 2000 when full diplomatic relations were established between the two countries, Ambassador Kinteh pointed out that the cooperation between the two has been growing steadily from strength to strength.
"Apart from our young men and women studying in different fields in various institutions across Cuba most of whom are here with us this evening, there is a large contingent of Cuban medical staff present in The Gambia giving much needed quality healthcare to the population across the entire country. The Gambia Medical Services collaborated in the past with Malaria Expert Teams from the Tropical Medicine Institutes and Labiofam enterprises in Cuba in malaria control programmes in the Gambia. The results of this programme have been phenomenal and were highly acclaimed by the World Health Organization as a success story," he cited among others as he concluded his marathon statement.
Meanwhile, a former Foni Kansala lawmaker and now first secretary at The Gambia's Embassy in Cuba, Sheriff Abba Sanyang made a detailed power point presentation on The Gambia and its current leadership.