Mr Ceesay, the director of the National Arts and Culture told The Standard that development in all sectors in the country exits only in dreams at independence, but at 50 years on this Month, The Gambia has delivered her independence promise.
“I think Edward Francis Small would be very happy with what The Gambia has achieved so far because we have removed the colonial bondage, ruling ourselves and electing our own representatives,” he said, referring to a protagonist of the independence struggle.
“These were not some of the things that he left here when he died in January 1958. He will also be happy that some of his great grand children can now be educated at home because EF Small had to go to Sierra Leone to do his high school education and he will be happy to know that Gambians no longer have to go outside to get any type of education because it is available at home.”
He added: “When Jawara took over as the leader of this country, we were virtually dead. We were called an improbable nation. A nation which might not survive, but we are here with our own currency which many independent nations could not have still now. We will not call names but we know them. We have our own Central Bank which some independent nations could not have. We also have our own flag and national anthem. I tell my students that the Dalasi is a powerful symbol of The Gambia’s independence but most of young people take that for granted. So we have come a long way but a lot needs to be done in all sectors.
“You have to remember, at the time of independence, nobody gave us time to succeed. There were arguments that after months, the country will collapse, the communist will come in and Senegal will annex us. There were some saying also that we won’t survive because there was no economic base and the British left nothing here. There were fewer than ten university graduates I think and these were coupled with other deficiencies as well. So, we had a rough start but look at after 50 years now. Gambians are able to have university education and are able to graduate hundreds of students a year at home which was unthinkable 50 years ago.
“For me, I think The Gambia has surprised the whole world to have come this far in terms of developments. Like I said, nobody gave us chance to survive just like South Sudan when they became independent three years ago. So I think The Gambia has achieved much more than anybody could imagine. Of course you have to know that development is a process and that no people can become developed overnight. I think we owe some applause to our two presidents: President Jawara and President Jammeh. One thing that even helped us more to move faster was political stability and good social cohesion and economic stability as well. We are taking these things for granted, but there are many countries in African and other parts of the world that do not have political and economic stability. We owe a big recognition to our leaders because where we have started and where we are, are far apart if you look at it from a historical perspective. There were no tarmac roads and very limit electricity coverage in the country at independence. In fact, electricity was only confined to some parts of Banjul and Serekunda.”
However, the historian also acknowledges that despite the “enormous progress”, there still remains a lot to be done.
He continued: “So, definitely we have seen progress in every aspect of our country’s development. But like I said, development is a process and we cannot do it in few years, but people have to be ready to do their own quarter in their life time to the development of their country. That is how countries develop and we will also get to that level with hardwork. It is a work in progress; a lot is being fulfilled. So, a lot of our independence dream has been fulfilled. We have to be fair to ourselves – we have resource constraints, both finance and human resources. Another constrain to our development is living in an unstable sub-region, drought-prone Sahel Region, throughout the 90s our neighbours were at war and we had to welcome refugees and we had to spend money on peace keeping missions and other things as well.”]]>