July 14th is an occasion for the French to celebrate their National Day and also to commemorate the founding event of the French republic: the seizing of the Bastille Prison on July 14th 1789, by the people of Paris fighting for their freedom.
The commemoration of this event, we share it with all the people of the world who aspire to the universal ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity. Due to the international health situation, it will unfortunately not be possible, this year, to celebrate in Banjul as elsewhere, our National Day, nevertheless I wanted to send our Gambian friends the following message.
The history of many countries is punctuated by deep changes, generating renewal and hope for their people. The Gambians knew this experience when they decided in December 2016 to put an end to 22 years of escalating tyranny, infringement of fundamental freedoms and violation of human rights.
France, from the beginning, has been involved in supporting the government of the New Gambia and has continued for three and a half years to give it substantial assistance in order to ensure the success of the democratic experience of this country, its smooth development and the strengthening of its security.
As the new Ambassador of France, Philippe LALLIOT reiterated when he presented his credentials to President Adama BARROW, this support is multifaceted. It is at first reflected on a political level by the invitation of President Adama BARROW to major events bringing together African heads of state and the French president. President Emmanuel MACRON will be pleased to welcome his Gambian counterpart to France on the occasion of the Africa-France summit, which had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be an opportunity to discuss the impact of the sanitary crisis on health systems and economies of African countries and to renew the call made by the French President, jointly with 17 other heads of state and government and international institutions, for the cancellation of the debt of African countries. There is no doubt that other subjects that are considered essential by President Adama BARROW (the migration issue, the terrorist threat or foreign investment) will also be discussed. The relationship between France and The Gambia has experienced exceptional growth during recent times, characterized by the historic visit to The Gambia, the first since independence, of a French foreign minister. On this occasion, Mr. Jean-Yves LE DRIAN inaugurated the new French Diplomatic Mission in Banjul. He there recalled France's commitment alongside The Gambia, newly included amongst France's priority development partners and the provision of an envelope of 50 million euros in budget support and donations aimed to finance several projects that will be implemented by the French Development Agency (AFD). At the end of January 2020, a financial agreement for a donation of € 16.5 million was signed with the Gambian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs in order to fund a project of assistance for NAWEC for the distribution of drinkable water in Greater Banjul. Delayed because of the sanitary situation, this project will be launched as soon as possible and will improve, in the coming months, the access of the populations of the capital to drinkable water. Alongside other donors, including the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the French Development Agency will also contribute, with a donation of €7 million, to the development of irrigated rice cultivation in several regions of The Gambia. This concrete support for The Gambia's National Development Plan will help it get closer to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Similarly, the two budget support granted by France at the end of 2018 (€ 5 million, almost half of which is dedicated to the Ministry of Health) and at the end of 2019 (€ 2 million) aim to help mitigate the budget deficit of The Gambia, very impacted by the effects of the measures taken to stem the CORONAVIRUS pandemic, the results of which must be welcomed, as The Gambia registers at present, less than 70 cases and 3 deaths. France is attentive to the Gambian government about the help it could provide in the health sector. Quite present, in partnership with Senegal, via the Institut Pasteur in Dakar which cooperates with the Medical Research Council, Unit The Gambia, French expertise in health and research is also mobilized for the benefit of The Gambia by the assistance that it provides to the country coordination mechanism of the Global Fund to fight HIV / AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, of which France is the second largest contributor in the world. The French NGO EGALISE, which has been working for more than ten years to improve the equipment of several health centers in The Gambia, through donations collected in the French region of Limousin (Bellac), is planning new initiatives in coordination with the BAH-BARROW Foundation and with the support of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Mamadou TANGARA. France is committed alongside The Gambia, also through the considerable aid provided by the European Union to this country. France as the EU's second largest contributor amongst the 27 member states, is also implicated in the definition of aid policies and initiatives carried out by the European Union in The Gambia to enhance rule of law and human rights. France considers it essential to continue the funding by Europe of the ECOWAS force (ECOMIG) which guarantees the stability of The Gambia during this period of transition. This exceptional endeavor by EU and ECOWAS partners must be accompanied by redoubled efforts in the reform of the security sector. France has made an officer available to the Office of National Security within the international team of SSR advisers and will continue to provide to the country's security institutions targeted training contributing to the improvement of capacities (police, immigration, military). The program of calling at the Port of Banjul of vessels of the French National Navy will be carried on, following the last call at the end of January of the Offshore Patrol Vessel COMMANDANT BOUAN, in order to develop exchanges with the Gambian Navy and support for the fight against illegal fishing, terrorism and migrant trafficking. France also stands alongside The Gambia so that it can benefit the most from its membership in late 2018 to the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) as an observer and invites it to develop its collaborations with operators of Francophonie. An ambitious capacity-building program for French teachers in the Gambian education system was launched by France in 2019 and has already benefited nearly 120 teachers. The knowledge of the French language by young Gambian graduates will make the difference on the job market in a region, West Africa, itself predominantly French-speaking. France in The Gambia, and it is the only foreign partner to be in this situation, that has two institutions whose reputation is well established: - The French School where more than 120 pupils of all nationalities including many young Gambians receive an education in French based on a bilingual French / English project and whose brand new premises were inaugurated at the end of January this year by the Gambian Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador of France to The Gambia. - The Alliance Française which provides hundreds of students and people engaged in the world of work with general and specialized French courses.
The Alliance Française projects to be even more present in Gambian cultural life, welcoming artists, supporting young digital entrepreneurs and organizing with civil society organizations, debates on ideas around the most sensitive societal issues of country and, first and foremost, violence against women.
It should also be recalled that the importance of parliamentary cooperation between the friendship groups of the French and Gambian national assemblies will be reaffirmed when the visit of French deputies, postponed because of the health crisis, can be rescheduled.
French companies established in this country and those who have the project to do it, will continue to be the close attention of the French representation, in accordance with the aspirations they expressed, on the occasion of the first edition of The France-Gambia Business Forum, in July 2019.
Finally, I would like to commend the members of the resident French community during this virtual celebration of our National Day.