Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the July 22 revolution; a revolution that laid the foundation for an ambitious vision which has continued to trail all sectors of national development. 20 years on, the revolution is still moving on. It all started on the morning of Friday, 22nd July, 1994, a group of patriotic soldiers of the then Gambia National Army, led by a young Lt Yahya AJJ Jammeh, staged a bloodless revolution that changed the misdirected course of history.
The revolution wholly embraced by the young and old, ushered in a change of leadership that Gambians had for a long time been yearning for. Massive developments streamed in within a short period of time and Gambians mobilized in unison to praise the 'soldiers with a difference'. Accountability, transparency and probity were institutionalized, and corruption and nepotism were flushed out of the administration of public affairs. They became the guiding principles of the revolution in manning public affairs.
A new wave of consciousness and awareness among the masses was evidently conspicuous in the political and socio-cultural terrain of the country. Unprecedented developments in the country's political history became the order of the day. In short, a new Gambia was born on July 22.
Suffice it to say, the revolution came into being with a purpose and clearly articulated objectives for self-determination and sustainable development of the country. This revolutionary leadership has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubts its commitment to the promotion of national identity and unity as well as the improvement of the lives of our people in both the moral and material sense. One needs not much to see the advancement in the political process, economic development, social emancipation and progress, cultural revitalization and promotion that is accompanying the revolution.
For Gambians, the change of government was more than a coup d'état. It was a people-centered revolution. The revolution was borne out of the desire of the masses to free themselves from massive corruption at official level, poverty and underdevelopment, injustice on the part of the political elite and a host of other social ills.
20 years on, the revolutionary leadership did not in any way distance themselves from the core pillars that brought them to administer the affairs of people -accountability, transparency and zero tolerance for corruption, all benchmarks with which a revolutionary government can be measured. Above all, the revolution saw the commencement of projects such as construction of roads, establishment of health facilities, construction of schools, and establishment of the first University Extension Program in the country and subsequently the University of The Gambia in 1999. Apart from the numerous developments registered by the revolution, there is ample evidence to manifest that the revolution has fully incorporated the authority of the people in an everlasting and inclusive manner in governance. The revolution has given the masses a wide scope to achieve self-confidence and to control their political, economic, social and cultural resources. An independent electoral commission is established by the revolution, in addition to a locally architected constitution and revival of the country's judicial system.
Today, the revolutionary government is even more committed to ensuring that The Gambia is transformed into a financial centre, a tourist paradise, a trading, export-oriented agricultural and manufacturing nation, thriving on free market policies and a vibrant private sector, sustained by a well-educated, trained, skilled, healthy, self-reliant and enterprising population and guaranteeing a well-balanced eco-system and a decent standard of living for one and all under a system of government based on the consent of the citizenry.
A change of attitude on the part of the citizenry particularly on the part of our youths is therefore essential to complement the efforts of the government in our development process. It is widely argued that every government is a reflection of its people. Therefore, the extent of popular participation will determine how well a government will serve its people. What we should do now is to continue to manifest a high spirit support and loyalty and be in solidarity with the efforts of the government. Remember, seventeen years has placed us on a greater path to success than ever before in the annals of our history.
This appeal goes more to the youth of the country whom there is no disagreement, are the cream of the society and who must be in the vanguard for its sustainable development. We launch this appeal to the youth of the country keeping in mind the development opportunities ushered in by the July 22 revolution and the so called 'nerves syndrome' crippling the very fabric of our society. It is our philosophical position that man owes his claim of supremacy over other members of the living kingdom to his power of imagination. This he translates into action by means of some physical aids. These take the form of machines and a horde of other forms of equipment. In order to reach this point, however, he required specialized skills that have evolved over time.
In virtually everything we do we employ some form of skills. The first world actually developed through skills training. Advanced countries are in fact advanced only simply because they outshine the rest of the world in the skills they use to put up all the domineering structures that we use today as yardstick in measuring development.
For instance, it took the Wright brothers some form of skills to assemble that historic aircraft that would revolutionize the transport industry generations to come. Nonetheless, emerging trends show an unequivocal obsession for white-collar jobs. And this weighs down, with catastrophic consequences, our inclinations to skills related professions. However, all indications are that sight has not been lost of this fact. The revolution for instance is cognizant of the importance of a skill-based society, which has the potential to ensure uninterruptible supply of our development needs.
There is a great lot to point at in the ever enlivening crusade of uplifting the status of the youth of this country. The establishment of indispensable institutions like the National Youth Council, the National Youth Service Scheme etc, etc, as well as the increasing weight of support being exerted by government towards realizing these goals, by increasing youth representation at all levels of decision making, are all indications of the readiness of the leadership of this country. But all these giant efforts will remain insignificant if the youth folk themselves do not take ownership of the institutions being built for them. The youth form the core treasure of a nation. An enterprising youth population accelerates its nation's development processes. On the contrary, a dependent youth population is a burden; it hinders progress, and contributes to the shaping of a failed state. This is surely not what we want to settle down for. A dependable and reliable skill is very important for one's livelihood. It is worth emphasizing as well that there is an enviable chunk of our youth folk that are keen to grab the opportunity being offered by government, but the larger society's input is also fervently desired.