By Lamin Njie
The roots homecoming festival, an event meant to woo tourists to The Gambia is scheduled to take place in December this year.
Tourism minister Hamat Bah on Wednesday presided over the launch of the event’s organising committee where he also detailed how the national event was hijacked. The organising committee was unveiled at a ceremony held at Gambia Tourism and Hospitality Institute in Kanifing.
Hamat Bah said: “After the army seized power in July 1994, a flood of travel advice almost decimated the Gambian tourist industry. The few inroads made in boosting the sector were in disarray. British tourists left The Gambia in droves, so did other European visitors.
“The junta needed to obviate this tragedy soonest. Unable to recover British cooperation, the junta were so pleased to hear of the idea of tapping visitors from the North American market.
“Thus, when the idea of Roots festival was mooted by the NCAC, the junta cabinet bought it hook line and sinker.
“Sadly, this one also became a missed opportunity as no sooner than the Roots festival began as a biennial event than it was hijacked and removed from the Roots home of Juffureh and taken elsewhere. Indeed, by the time the last edition was held in 2016, Roots Festival was a mere shadow of what it was meant to be and could have been.”
Roots homecoming festival was initiated in 1994 and tourists who pour into the country would embark on a pilgrimage to Juffureh, the hometown of Kunta Kinteh. Former president Yahya Jammeh later moved the event to Kanilai, his home village.