Gambia calls for support to civil society at US-Africa summit

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By Saikou Ceesay

The 2nd US-Africa Leaders’ Summit opened on Tuesday 22 at the Washington Convention Centre with The Gambia calling for greater support to the civil society to strengthen its partnership with Government.

Delivering the national paper at the Civil Society Forum held at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., Foreign Minister Dr. Mamadou Tangara, said civil society is the conscience of the nation and should be supported to continue serving as a moderator that would bring about inclusion and cooperation between the Government and the people.

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The Minister recalled that civil society in The Gambia played a crucial role in ushering in a new democratic dispensation and urged other governments around the world not to see civil society as enemies but as partners in good governance.

Foreign Minister Tangara said The Gambia believes in a strong and vibrant civil society because ‘we saw their positive contribution and cooperation with the Government. “

In July of last year, President Barrow signed a bill for Access to Information which recognised access to information as a human right,” Tangara informed world leaders.

The Gambia’s Foreign Minister pointed out that it was the first time in our history that Civil Society and the Government worked together on legislation from conception to enactment. The bill, Minister Tangara said, is meant to enhance accountability and good governance.

Minister Tangara said following the democratic change in The Gambia in 2017, the Government of President Barrow established the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate and establish an impartial record of atrocities committed under the reign of former President Jammeh and close aides.

He said The Gambia believes that the best approach in tackling the nexus between underdevelopment and instability is by focusing on the interlinked pillars of peace and security, development, good governance and human rights. He observed that the approach should be pursued in a coherent manner aimed at realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the aspirations of the African Union for a prosperous Africa as envisioned in the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

In what was a day full of engagements, Foreign Minister Tangara also held series bilateral meetings with senior officials of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the US Undersecretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Mrs. Urza Zeya, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice, Dr. Beth Van Schaack, with other officials. The Minister and the Gambian delegation also participated in several official forums of the Summit at the Washington Convention Centre throughout the day.

In her opening statement at the Convention Centre, the Vice President of the United States of America, Her Excellency Kamala Harris, announced that the Biden administration would invest $100 million to expand the Young African Leaders Initiative and that the US Export-Import Bank would enter new memorandums of understanding to clear the way for additional $1 billion in new commercial financing in Africa.

The three-day Summit continues tomorrow with more new US initiatives toward Africa expected to be announced before the end of the Summit.