of The Gambia Yahya Jammeh, who was re-elected
for his third term in 2006
The Gambia River is a dominating feature of
life in The Gambia. This great West African
river stretches from the countrys Atlantic
coast 186 miles into its interior, dividing
residents into north or south bank inhabitants.
Steamers can navigate the river for 140 miles
inland, which, for the first 80 miles, is fringed
with mangrove-covered banks, later giving way
to red cliffs topped with green vegetation.
Dotted with ferries, fishermen in dugout canoes
and cutters loaded with groundnuts, the river
offers the occasional glimpse of hippopotami
and crocodiles surfacing, and baboons playing
along its banks.
Alex Haley, who wrote the American novel Roots,
said that it was the Gambia River that helped
him trace his ancestors. Of the few African
words passed down in his family, Kamby Bolongo
had survived. He discovered that bolongo was
a moving water, or river, in Mandinka, the language
of The Gambias main ethnic group. Later,
when he traveled to Jaffure, a village on the
north bank of the river, his theory was confirmed.
The Mandika language does not have a g
sound; the river is thus pronounced Kambiya
rather than Gambia.
The tranquility of the river is reflected
in the peaceful nature of those who reside along
its banks. Located around the flood plains of
the Gambia River, and occupying an area roughly
half the size of Maryland, is Africas
smallest nation. Geographically surrounded by
Senegal on all sides except for its 50 miles
of Atlantic coastline, The Gambia is one of
West Africas most peaceful nations, and
according to the World Economic Forum, one of
the top three least corrupt countries on the
The nations love for peace extends beyond
its borders. The Gambia has played an important
role in regional peace processes it recently
hosted the African Union Summit, and President
Yahya Jammeh, who was reelected for his third
term in 2006, has been actively involved in
mediating the Guinea-Bissau peace process and
ensuring stability in the Senegalese region
Peace and stability are indispensable
pre-requisites for human development. Without
them, we cannot move forward, states the
President. If we live according to tribes,
there is bound to be conflict; and if we live
based on races, theres bound to be racism.
Our diversity in color and culture is the strength
of humanity, and as far as we are concerned,
religion should be a unifying factor rather
than a dividing factor.
The stability that has reigned in The Gambia
since President Jammeh assumed power in 1994
has allowed the country the freedom to achieve
significant economic progress. Today, The Gambia
boasts a liberal, market-based economy, a growing
tourism industry and a thriving re-export trade
built around its port. Growth has been above
6% for the last few years, infrastructure has
been strengthened and continues to be expanded,
and the country is open to foreign investment.
Bold steps are being taken to ensure the countrys
goal of achieving developed status by 2020.
To achieve Vision 2020, we must ensure
that our citizens acquire the skills required
through quality education. That is the strategy.
It is not just about reaching Vision 2020 but
sustaining it, says the President. Next,
we must create an environment conducive to development,
an atmosphere that gives investors confidence,
and one in which the private sector is the engine
of growth. For the private sector to be competent
and realize its potential, there must be a transparent
relationship with the government. Whatever we
do in this country is in partnership with the
private sector, and the private sector is indispensable
in the achievement of Vision 2020.
This country has always been cited as
the smallest country on earth. However, good
things can come from small countries like ours.
My vision was to make The Gambia one of the
best countries in the world. If a small country
like Singapore can do it, why not The Gambia?
My hope was to make the smallest country on
earth the best country on earth. To this day,
that is the vision that I have.