PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS ON THE OCCASION
OF THE STATE OPENING OF THE NATIONAL
ASSEMBLY – BANJUL, 24THJULY, 2017

Honourable Minister of Women’s Affairs Overseeing
the Office of the Vice President,
Madam Speaker,
His Lord the Chief Justice,
Honourable Ministers,
Secretary General & Head of the Civil Service,
Lord Mayor of Banjul,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
Venerable Religious Leaders,
Service Chiefs,
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,
Members of the Media,
Fellow Gambians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
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I stand before you with great humility today at this
historic opening of our National Assembly in the era of
the ‘New Gambia.’

Together, we have ushered the New Gambia into a
world of hope – a world we shall jealously guard to
preserve the freedom and dignity of our people. Never
again shall this nation return to those dark days of
impunity, obvious disregard for constitutional order or
be globally isolated. This is an achievement that we
should not take lightly. I thank Allah for this blessing
and also seek his continued guidance and strength to
serve you well in the coming years.

The spirit of unity that brought us last December’s
historic election outcome continues to drive the nation
forward, which is evident in the business of our new
Cabinet. Indeed, we see this spirit of unity every day
across the nation as we strive together to build the New
Gambia that we want and deserve.

The most important achievement so far is the peaceful
transition of power to our new democracy. This short
period has seen the inauguration of a President, the
appointment of a new Cabinet and the election of a
new National Assembly.

My fellow Gambians

You have elected the government that you want, and
we have taken your expressions of goodwill and your
desire for peace and prosperity seriously. We have thus
begun the task of steadily reforming the government
machinery so it can do the work of nation building and
help strengthen our new found democracy that we have
wanted for so long.

I want to offer my thanks to the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union,
the United Nations, the European Union, the World
Bank, and all our international partners for their
invaluable support in this historic transition. They too

have worked with us in the spirit of unity and
cooperation to serve the New Gambia.
They have all moved swiftly to help stabilise this
nation through support with security and human and
financial resources. I know we can count on their
continued support particularly to overcome the dire
financial situation that we inherited. But ultimately, we
Gambians must forge our way along the path of
democracy and prosperity. I am proud to say that we
are already well on our way in these first few months
of our administration.

We have got a lot to do in 2017 and beyond and as I
have always said, this is going to be a government of
action. Our immediate priority is to fix the continuous
energy problem as well as the broken economy, unify
the nation, improve health and agricultural sub-sectors,
end the country’s isolation and introduce robust
institutional, electoral and constitutional reforms in
line with our new democratic principles that will
respond to the realities of our time. This has to be done
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in tandem with reforms in the Civil Service and
security sector as well as State Owned Enterprises.

A Peaceful Transition

Our most important achievement so far is the peaceful
transition of power to this new democracy. As
mentioned earlier, we are indebted to ECOWAS, the
AU, the UN, the EU, the World Bank, the IMF and
other international partners for their support. They
have all moved quickly to help stabilise our country
with the help of security, human and financial
resources.

As the saying goes charity begins at home, so we must
acknowledge that we Gambians are to be commended
for initiating the change that brought us the New
Gambia. We shall continue to build our country
together.

Justice and Judiciary

While we have restored some of the key democratic
institutions, the pursuit of justice remains a high
priority for my government. Indeed, we still have a lot
to do despite the progress made so far. Over 500
prisoners have been pardoned and we have delivered
on our promise to decongest prisons by releasing
political and other deserving reformed prisoners.

A Criminal Case and Detention Review Panel has also
been established to enquire into all criminal
proceedings against current and former public officers
and the panel has uncovered cases linked to political
activity, and persons remanded and awaiting trial. We
have recently and carefully concluded the work on the
setting up of a Commission of Inquiry to look into the
financial and business-related activities of the former
President and his associates. The members of the
Commission chaired by Surahata Semega Janneh have

been announced and the Commission will start work
shortly.
Additionally, our Judiciary has been ‘Gambianised’
with the appointment of a Gambian Chief Justice and
six Superior Court justices.

We also held a successful National Stakeholders’
Conference on Justice and Human Rights in May and
the forum provided a unique opportunity for inclusive
dialogue and consultations on key justice sector
reforms, including plans for the setting up of a Truth
and Reconciliation Commission.

My government has received and continues to benefit
from genuine and solid support provided by the UN in
the area of transitional justice and the setting up of this
Commission.

Security and Defence

In the area of security and defence, we are grateful for
the support of the ECOWAS Mission in the Gambia.
The ECOMIG forces were especially instrumental in
helping to secure our democratic transition. The
government is working on reforming the security
sector which is closely linked to the delivery of justice
and the restoration of our free and fair democracy.

Gone are the days of armed security personnel
representing the face of government. The Gambian
Armed Forces are now confined to their military
barracks. Members of the former State Guard Battalion
have been redeployed to other units, and the armed
forces are now disengaged from civilian matters. It is
also important to note that arms and ammunitions have
been stored in safe locations.

We must, however, applaud our gallant Armed Forces,
who have been receptive to the normalisation of their
role in the state, and have conducted themselves with
maximum professionalism. They continue to play a
critical role in keeping our nation safe and secure, and
deserve our unconditional support and respect as they
carry out their professional duties.

To ensure that our military remain effective and
professional, we plan to set up an infantry centre and
school, as well as a military academy to train our
officers and other personnel in all aspects of military
science.

The former National Intelligence Agency, now the
State Intelligence Service, has been restructured to
focus on its core activity of intelligence gathering and
analysis to ensure the safety and security of us all.

Information and Communications

 

In the area of information and communications, we
have taken concrete steps to review oppressive media
laws, to ensure freedom of the press and freedom of
expression. These are founding pillars of any strong
democracy, and my government has moved quickly to
reinstate three private radio shows that were illegally
shut down. All these efforts will enhance the quality,
the scope and the openness of information, news and
the media throughout our country. It is reassuring to
now hear and see debates on divergent views expressed
freely on radio, on television and in our newspapers.

In one of my recent cabinet meetings we agreed, as an
immediate priority, on the need to put in place a
communications strategy that will facilitate regular
communication and engagements with the public. New
communications measures have been introduced to
include regular press briefings by the media team at the
Office of the President, by the Minister of Information
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and Communication Infrastructure, and bi-annual news
conferences by myself.
Energy

Turning to the energy sector, let me start by restating
the urgency that I attach to resolving the power supply
issues across the nation. Electricity is power – the
power to support education and learning, the power to
run life-saving health facilities, and the power for
businesses to create jobs and grow the economy.

I came into office to find significant challenges in the
energy sector, as is evident in frequent power outages.
Electric power is one of the most basic services that
people need for a decent quality of life, and the lack of
it greatly affects the net national productivity and lives
of the people.

To meet these challenges and tackle our acute power
shortage, my government has made it a priority from

day one, to work with international partners, investors
and developers to attract investments in the energy
sector.

Some of the negotiations are at a very advanced stage.
We recently signed an agreement for a new
60-megawatt power plant, which will more than double
the current generation capacity in the country. It will
deliver adequate and stable electric power supply in the
whole of the Greater Banjul Area. I am also happy to
report that the proposal to acquire electricity from our
sister Republic of Senegal is well advanced.

It is worthy to note that this cross-border connection is
a short-term measure to boost the energy supply,
especially in the rural areas.

Madam Speaker,

Regarding the petroleum sub-sector over the past 22
years, Gambians have either been left in the dark or
seriously misinformed about petroleum prospects.

My government will be transparent and honest about
the state of petroleum, and should there be positive
results, we are committed to governing the sector with
total transparency and accountability.

Exploration and research are at an advanced stage, and
while we are hopeful, we must wait for the process of
exploration to take its course.

Trade and Foreign Affairs

Fellow Gambians,

By exercising your democratic right last December,
you helped us usher in a new Gambia that is more open
to the world and a better neighbour within our region.
We now have a country that will benefit from greater
openness through international trade and tourism.

Since my inauguration, it is clear that the world
appreciates The Gambia and wants to engage with us.
We have already seen an increase in the volume of
cargo at the Port of Banjul as well as a rise in vehicular
traffic using the ferry services. Furthermore, there has
been a clear boost in the flock of new investors
exploring opportunities in our country.

We have also been honoured with many visits by
foreign dignitaries from the EU, the UN, the UK and
from our own ECOWAS neighbours. I have equally
been humbled by invitations from fellow world
leaders.

The Gambia has begun the process of rejoining the
Commonwealth, and reaffirmed our membership to the
International Criminal Court. We have welcomed the
decision by ECOWAS to extend ECOMIG’s tenure, all
of which demonstrates our commitment to embrace
regional and global institutions in the name of open
and collaborative international relations.

Relations with our neighbour Senegal have been
transformed positively. We now meet as strategic
partners who recognise the mutual benefit of closer
cooperation. Within the first 100 days of our period in
office, our countries signed several key agreements on
defence and security, tourism, fisheries and consular
assistance.

As a small economy, The Gambia has much to gain
from more efficient trade across our borders with
Senegal and beyond. Going forward, my Cabinet and I

will work to make the most of these opportunities, to
boost our economy and create jobs for Gambians.

Already, the National Assembly ratified a crucial
World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade facilitation
agreement. This is an agreement that will make The
Gambia a more attractive export destination for our
trading partners. I am proud to announce that my
Minister of Trade has since signed a letter of
agreement with China for duty free trade between our
two nations.

This will remove the need for costly trans-shipment of
Gambian exports to China through a third country. It
will also make our goods more competitive, and boost
our export potential to the world’s largest market.

A legal metrology bill will soon be brought to the floor
of the National Assembly. The bill will, among other
things, address consumer protection relevant to legal
metrology functions.

International Financial Affairs and Public finances

Fellow Gambians, my government took office to
discover that the Treasury was virtually empty and
domestic and foreign debts at an all-time high. The
foreign reserve at the Central Bank was less than one
month import cover, and the economic and governance
situation had become so bad that our international
development partners had deserted us.

To address this crisis, my government in January 2017
developed the Accelerated National Response Plan
which seeks technical and financial support from our
development partners to help mitigate the economic
and fiscal crisis in the short-term.

We are grateful to our international partners, who have
responded swiftly and continue to respond to this call
for support.

The European Union has made a significant financial
commitment. It is disbursing frozen funds and
committing new funds to support the development
agenda of the New Gambia. The World Bank has
already provided vital emergency budget support and
we are in the final stages of concluding a Rapid Credit
Facility Agreement with the IMF who have agreed to a
staff monitored programme to stabilise the economy
and public finances. This will include the reform of
public enterprises such as the National Water and
Electricity Corporation, (NAWEC) and
telecommunications entities GAMTEL and GAMCEL.
Youth

In order to take full advantage of the impending
financial and economic opportunities, we need to
prepare our youth today for a vibrant labour force
tomorrow. After all, the bedrock of our country’s very
existence is our youth. This is why the Ministry of
Youth and Sports is tasked to create various capacity

and employment initiatives to enable our young people
to form the much-needed human capital that will drive
the country’s development agenda.

In our first 100 days, a new Youth Empowerment
Project initiative supported by the EU was launched at
the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration
and Employment. The objective of this project is to
improve the skills of potential youth workers and
prepare them, especially returning young migrants for
the labour market.

Through the President’s International Award
Scheme, 60 youths were recently enrolled to undergo
skills training in a range of technical and vocational
areas like auto-mechanics, carpentry and secretarial
work.

It is encouraging to note that the National Youth
Council coordinates the civic education programme.
This is aimed at mobilising our youth to participate in

politics, and to assume their rightful role in the
country’s development process. The Council has
helped craft a youth agenda for government’s
consideration, and is working closely with the
International Organisation for Migration to support
returnees and potential migrants to acquire livelihood
skills in horticulture and poultry.

The Council is also helping young people in
Busumbala, Baddibu Salikenni, and Kuntaur to acquire
skills in poultry farming. Similarly, it is helping young
people in Wuli to acquire skills in horticulture.
These capacity building initiatives also sensitise young
people to the dangers of illegal migration to Europe.

Agriculture

In agriculture, we expect to make critical development
gains from improving the skills of our youth and
encouraging them to participate in agriculture. At the
moment, agricultural productivity is low, and this

limits the benefits to the nation in terms of jobs,
livelihoods and government revenue.

In addition to youth training, the Ministry of
Agriculture has begun a programme of support to
farmers and farming businesses to improve seed input,
modernise cropping and ploughing techniques, and
enhance planning in the face of climate change and
other hazards to agriculture. Already, vegetable seeds
have been distributed to 11,200 farmers as well as
22,500 kilogrammes of rice seeds to intensify rice
production. High quality fertilizer and groundnut
seeds have also been made available to farmers at
subsidised prices.
Fisheries

As well as maximising the economic potential of our
agricultural sub-sector, we have begun to develop
fisheries as a source of food security, jobs and
economic growth.

During the first 100 days of my Presidency, the
Ministry of Fisheries, Water Resources and National
Assembly Matters and the Ministry of Justice reviewed
the country’s 2008 fisheries regulations to make it
more relevant to our current realities.

Considering that our industrial fisheries sector has
been dormant for over twenty years, we expect that the
amendment of these regulations will contribute to the
sustainable conservation and management of the
fisheries sector. It will also enhance food security for
all Gambians and contribute to poverty reduction
through employment creation.

Tourism

Our historic political transition took place during the
peak of the tourist season. Tourism contributes
significantly to GDP and it is a critical source of
employment and government revenue, as tourists are
naturally drawn to our warm and friendly shores.

We have begun to re-engage our key markets but we
still have a lot to do to sell our New Gambia brand to
the world. We intend to realise the full potential of
tourism as a source of employment, livelihoods and
prosperity for our nation.

The implementation of new strategies to enhance
culture, tradition and the arts as channels for new
tourist inflows is already underway. The major craft
markets at Bungalow Beach Hotel and Fajara Hotel
have already been upgraded.

Community-based tourism endeavours, such as the one
in Ndemban in the West Coast Region, have been
developed with the support of the Ministry of Tourism
and Culture.

Environment and climate change

In support of environmental protection and tourism in
the country, my government has put in place the right
policies and programmes to protect our environment
and combat the effects of climate change.

In our first 100 days, we reversed an executive order of
the previous government to destroy the forest park in
Bijilo with the construction of a hotel on the park
grounds. We have normalised the environmental
impact assessment process with clear guidelines in
accordance with due process, with full transparency, to
give investors more confidence in the system.

My government will continue to monitor to ensure that
existing investors respect the agreed guidelines to
protect our environment.

My government has also mobilised additional
resources to support environmental protection. We
have re-engaged with the Global Environment Facility
and we will access US$6 million that had previously
been withheld.

The Forestry Bill 2017, which seeks to put in place the
necessary legal framework for the management of our
forest resources, will come to this Assembly shortly for
enactment. We shall enforce it rigorously to protect and
preserve our already degraded and vulnerable forest
cover. This is necessary, not only to preserve our
precious natural resources, but also to mitigate against
the adverse effects of climate change.

Water

Within the first 100 days of my government, we have
made important progress in expanding access to safe
drinking water and improved sanitation in rural areas.

On the 9th of April, with a grant from the Saudi Fund
for Development, my government signed a contract for
the construction of 25 drilled wells, equipped with
solar pumps. The contract also provides for 25 elevated
water tanks, and associated water distribution systems.
This US$6 million project will improve water supply
in rural areas by providing safe drinking water with
easy to operate systems.

In March 2017, the Department of Water Resources
completed the construction of 950 ventilated improved
pit latrines out of a planned 1,000 nationwide. The
Ministry is currently installing tanks, laying water
pipes and building pre-cast tap stands in various
communities across the country.

Many of these facilities are either complete or nearing
completion. At the end of this project, over 65,000
people in rural areas will have access to safe drinking
water and 44,000 will have access to improved toilet
facilities.

Health

Madam Speaker,

Improvements to water quality are linked to health
outcomes across the country. Alongside providing
people with safe drinking water and sanitation, my
government, through the Ministry of Health, is scaling
up its efforts to improve our health delivery systems,
especially for women and children. As a first step, we
have obtained additional assets to support primary
health care provision in the country. This includes 800
pedal bicycles and 29 motorbikes for Village Health
Workers and Community Health Nurses across the
country’s seven health regions.

I am pleased to report that the World Bank has
approved US$7 million in additional funding for the
Maternal and Child Health as well as the Nutrition
Result Project. My government has also submitted a
proposal to the EU to enhance food security. We
would welcome their support to help us treat acute
malnutrition and prevent all forms of under-nutrition.

With more than 95 percent coverage, we are also
getting support from the Global Alliance for Vaccine
Initiative (GAVI) to help us consolidate our strong
track record on child immunisations. This project,
estimated at US$4.6 million will help strengthen and
enhance our immunisation systems.

Education

For basic and secondary education, I am proud to say
we have reached agreement with development partners
for over US$50 million worth of investment to expand
and improve education for our next generation.
With the help of the Kuwaiti Fund, we are upgrading
39 upper basic and senior secondary schools. This will
see the building of additional classrooms, the
rehabilitation of existing ones, as well as information
technology and solar power solutions. We will install
new furniture and educational facilities in our schools,
including science laboratories, and there will be a new
teaching curriculum. With support from the World
Bank and the Global Partnership for Education, we are
building on existing programmes to enhance access to
quality basic education, including early childhood
education.

Administration and Civil Service

Madam Speaker,

While initiating our policy and reform agenda, we have
also been reforming ourselves within government. We
inherited a highly politicised regional administrative
system. It was presided over by governors who owed
their allegiance to the APRC.
Offices of regional governors were being run more as
political bureaus rather than serving the grassroots
within their localities. As such, scarce national
resources were being used for political propaganda
activities.

To improve governance and stop wasting resources,
my government appointed five new governors, whose
terms of reference clearly exclude them from engaging
in partisan politics. We have encouraged them to
follow proper civil service conduct, which embodies
neutrality and impartiality in performing their
functions.

In normalising the civil service, we have established a
panel to review the wrongful dismissal of civil servants
and other government officials between September
1997 and December 2016. Since its creation, the panel
has cleared over 100 employees, allowing them to be
reinstated. At the same time, the civil service has
expanded rapidly by over 40 percent since 2007.
Consequently, almost half of the government budget is
spent on civil service wages and benefits.
This not only limits government’s ability to provide the
necessary budget to improve the socio-economic status
of its citizens, but also makes it difficult to improve the
salary of civil servants. This is one of the key
challenges in attracting and retaining skilled
professionals.

In response, my government has tasked the Personnel
Management Office to conduct a comprehensive
nationwide staff audit for the entire civil service. This
began on the 27th of March 2017. For the first time, this
audit included the security forces – the Army, Police,
​Immigration, Prisons, Fire and Rescue Service, and the
State Intelligence Service.

The objectives of the audit exercise include the
identification and elimination of ghost workers, the
recovery of wrongful salaries and the updating of
personnel records.

Let me proudly acknowledge the support that my
government received from our UN partners in the area
of administrative reform. During this transition period,
the UN System has provided support to strengthen
government capacity and they have been assisting us in
the formulation of our National Development Plan, as
well as security sector reform.

It is also important to report that as part of the reform,
my own office which was directly coordinating and
supervising a huge number of public enterprises and
other state agencies under the former government has
been de-congested and those institutions streamlined
with their line ministries.

In Conclusion

While we have taken this opportunity to reflect on how
far we have progress as a nation in just a few short
months, let us not be mistaken, we have a huge
long-term task ahead.

This includes but not limited to:
●Continuing to rebuild and nurture our young
democracy for inclusive socio-economic
development;
●Providing economic opportunities for all; and
●Reforming the institutions of government to
ensure improved service delivery for our people.

These tasks are not without challenges, but I am
confident that none of them are impossible to
overcome. I am happy and privileged to have this great
opportunity to lead our great nation to prosperity. But
we must learn from the experience of others.

We must be disciplined, follow the plan and stay
committed to that plan. So in pursuing our vision for
the New Gambia, my government will continue to
focus our time and resources on a clear agenda. We
shall create a foundation on which future progress will
be built.

I commit to you to pursue this agenda with greater
transparency and accountability – more than ever
before. I will continue to update you on progress
throughout the year. This is a new government and a
new era, and as your President, I am here to serve the
Gambian people.

And now, by the powers vested in me as President, it is
my pleasure and privilege to declare this historic
session of our National Assembly in the new Gambia
formally open.

Thank you.