29 May 2013

Gambia: Unification of the African Continent Is Paramount - Says President Jammeh, As He Returns From AU Summit

The president of the Republic has emphasised that the unification of the African continent is of paramount importance, saying as long as people are not united, "all the continent's natural resources will be nothing to us".

His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh was speaking to waiting reporters Tuesday at the Banjul International Airport, shortly upon arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he attended the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which also coincided with celebrations marking the Golden Jubilee of the Organisation of African Union (OAU) now AU. The vice president and minister of Women's Affairs, Her Excellency Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, Cabinet ministers, diplomats, senior government officials, security chiefs and a cross-section of the community all gathered at the Banjul International Airport to receive the president and delegation.

The Gambian leader described the Golden Jubilee celebration as very impressive, saying that what is more important is the fact that almost all African leaders have now realised that only by looking inwards and working together can they achieve the lofty ideals that the founding fathers of the of the OAU set for themselves and for Africa. He continued: "Look at African oil producing countries compared to Arab oil producing countries, or let's compare them to Qatar as well. They were nowhere near Qatar and maybe they have more oil and gas than Qatar. So what is the problem? The problem is because we sign licenses that are not in our favour. How can you sign a licence for maybe 25 years exclusivity and where the country gets only 5% or 15% of the wealth? That is unacceptable. Now we have realised that in order to get ourselves out of this circle of endless poverty, we really have to go back and look at where we went wrong, and it is necessary for us to work together. Because if it's one country you are easily penalised but if it's a continent it's not possible. If we stand together we can defend the interests of the African people and not only that, also defend the natural resources for the benefit of Africans. We are all yearning to trade with the EU and other countries and intra-African trade alone is zero. There are so many trade barriers and there are so many obstacles and we want to trade with outsiders, because Africa alone is almost a market of a billion people or more than that. Why can't we trade amongst ourselves first and then with other countries?

President Jammeh further remarked that African leaders have realised that fighting among themselves is entrenching poverty and destitution on the continent. He lamented that everywhere you stand as an African, all what they think of is that you are either HIV positive, a drug dealer or a dictator or whatever. He said that some leaders are even branded by the West as dictators, and declared that this doesn't mean anything to him as far as he is concerned, 'because a dictator is better than a vampire'. His words: "Yes, I'm a dictator yes, but for 18 years what I have done in this country the British couldn't do it in a million years. So who's a dictator? If you are talking about good governance also because these are the sort of things that they use to divide Africans and create conflicts. Oh, your neighbour is a dictator, is bad governance and is a violator of human rights, but that is not true. Now, what is good governance for? Is to engender economic prosperity and prosperity of the people and high living standard okay. Now if for 400 years you built only one high school and two hospitals, how many high schools did I build in 17/18 years? Now what is good governance? If good governance is anything to go by, I'm a better governor than the British misrule of The Gambia, and now every Africa leader realised that, they may not be as brave as others, but now they realised that all what they are saying is a bunch of rubbish and we should discard it and we should work together." President Jammeh stressed that he is not against anybody, but rather against injustice, which is unacceptable. He continued: "Up to today Africa is the richest continent on earth in terms of mineral resources. We have human resources too. If Japan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia can develop why can't we the African continent develop? Now we realised that we have to work together, the Arab League speaks with one voice regarding an issue but you come to Africa we speak with ten and or twenty different voices. Now even those who are working for them have realised that they are wasting their time." The Gambian leader said that the continent is still lagging behind "because many African leaders from independence to date are following those who subjugated, colonised, enslaved and exploited us for the past 450 years and now the leaders have realised that there is need to work together". Regarding his historic statement at the AU proposing the implementation of a decade of peace and reconciliation in the African continent, President Jammeh further stressed that without peace there cannot be any development. He added: "As we celebrated and hugged each other at the celebration venue most of us are fighting each other either directly and indirectly. Unless we reconcile as we set ourselves for another fifty years of development in Africa and for integration, obviously how can we integrate Africa when we are fighting each other? So the most important thing is to engender peace and security in Africa. It will not take you one year to do so, as some of the conflicts are so deeply entrenched that it will require the concerted efforts and sincerity of all African leaders. So it will not take two or three years. It will take almost ten years to end a lot of conflicts and then reconcile and ensure peace and security. Until we do so these fifty years (2013-2063) will be an elusive dream. So without peace and stability let us not talk about development. President Jammeh cited the case of Syria, saying that it was a self-sufficient country that neither imported oil from other countries nor took loan from either IMF, World Bank or any Westerner. "Today Syria is destroyed and reduced to the Stone Age. How many years would it take to rebuild it? So I think we have seen examples of that; we have seen what happened in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries. So we need to make sure that there is reconciliation, though even at the end of conflicts, you have deeply rooted wounds in any particular country that also need to be addressed by reconciliation. So we need at least ten years to devote ourselves to peace and reconciliation and then alongside development, but after the peace and stability has been entrenched, development would come automatically," he concluded.

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