Jeddah On February 18, the Republic of The Gambia launched the celebrations that mark the West African country's 54th Anniversary of Independence from Britain.
The Gambia, the smallest country within mainland Africa, is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal with the exception of its western coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It has an area of 10,689 square kilometers with a population of 1,857,181 as of the April 2013 census. Banjul is the Gambian capital and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.
The Gambia is situated on either side of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the center of The Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
In his address to the nation on this occasion, President Adama Barrow the Independence Day is "auspicious occasion accords the nation the opportunity to take stock of our successes, challenges and progress since the attainment of nationhood. The National Day also provides an opportunity to hold the Government in office accountable to the people."
"Independence carries multiple meanings and significance for us as a nation. It is not simply about self-rule and freedom from foreign domination; most importantly, it is about freedom of thought and action, leading to our growth and progress as individuals, families, communities, organizations and as a nation," he said.
President Barrow stated that the underlying objective is for all citizens to engage in nation building as a united force, pointing out that this is the environment that his government has now created for Gambians.
He expressed pride in the multitude of development successes registered in various areas so far. These include successes in the spheres of legislation, infrastructure development, transitional justice, institutional reform, setting up structures and developing instruments.
Also, amongst the progress registered are the recently launched roads and bridges projects in the Upper River and North Bank Regions. Higher learning institutions, such as The Gambia College twin projects, and health infrastructures are being decentralized to promote inclusive development for all. Working with partners, the education sector is building modern classrooms in various parts of the country to make the learning environment more conducive and accessible. Inroads made within the water and energy sectors are also evident cases in point.
The president affirmed that the Gambian economy has been stabilized, expressing optimism that it will continue to grow steadily.
"As an independent nation, our borders are safer than ever before, and personal safety is no longer the threat it was perceived to be. Gambians have a voice once again, as characteristic of all free and independent people. We must jealously guard this liberty," Barrow said in his address.
"This year is a turning point for the better, and it requires that we further muster courage, confidence and hope. It is a moment of opportunity to harness the potential of our returnees and the Gambian Diaspora," he explained.
He said his government is working hard to put in place strong and sustainable institutions and structures, noting that all citizens have a collective duty to perform, to ensure popular participation in national development.
President Barrow said his government has created an enabling environment for the public-private partnership, and is set on high gear to host the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit later this year.
The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965, under the leadership of Dawda Jawara, who ruled until Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994.
Shortly after independence, the national government held a referendum proposing that the country become a republic. This referendum failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution, but the results won widespread attention abroad as testimony to The Gambia's observance of secret balloting, honest elections, civil rights, and liberties. On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum.
Adama Barrow became The Gambia's third president in January 2017, after defeating Jammeh in December 2016 elections.
The Gambia has a market-based economy characterized by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts for export earnings and significant tourism industry.
The World Bank pegged Gambian GDP for 2011 at $898 million, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) put it at $977 million for 2011. From 2006 to 2012, the Gambian economy grew annually at a pace of 5�6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Agriculture accounts for roughly 30 percent of GDP and employs about 70 percent of the labor force.
Source: International Islamic News Agency