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The Gambian leader made this promise at the Independence Stadium in Bakau where he addressed tens of thousands of Gambian and non – Gambian Golden Jubilee celebrants.

“I will also make sure that by 2020 all education in this country, including university, will be free for all Gambians and non Gambians,” he said. 

Already, The Gambia has a free primary education programme, while girls enjoy free education up to upper basic level. 

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The government had last year promised to introduce free secondary education for all by 2016. 

According to President Jammeh, removing school levies up to university level ‘is a divine duty’ for him, as he would have ‘removed a heavy burden’ on women who toil to pay their children’s education bills. 

Pays tribute

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The Gambia attained independence from Britain in 1965. The founding president, Kairaba Jawara, ruled for 30 years, before he was overthrown by Yahya Jammeh in 1994. As the country clocked 50, the presidency declared a year-long celebration amid pomp and pageantry as well as unveiling of development projects.

Three heads of state from West Africa, including the Ecowas chairman and Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama, Jose Mario Vaz of Guinea Bissau and Mohamed Oul Abdul Aziz of Mauritania graced the celebrations at the Independence Stadium. 

In his thirty-minute speech, which marked the climax of that elaborate piece of event, President Jammeh paid tribute to those who struggled for The Gambia’s independence, such as anti-colonial protagonist EF Small for his ‘pioneering role’ and President Jawara for his ‘decisive role’. 

As he put it: “We, however, recall with pride and tribute that the colonised people in general and Africans in particular were determined to stop colonisation through civil resistance and even armed confrontation. In this regard, I must pay homage to Edward Francis Small whose pioneering efforts my government has recognised and immortalised by renaming the then Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital after him. We also pay tribute to his other colleagues of blessed memory namely, Reverend John Colley Faye of the Democratic Party, the late IM Garba Jahumpa of Muslim Congress Party, the late PS Njie of United Party all of whom in one way or the other struggled to end colonial exploitation. Our homage also goes to the first prime minister and later became the first president of the republic of The Gambia, Alhagie Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and his colleagues of the People’s Progressive Party for their decisive role in The Gambia’s independence. We also pay tribute to the public servants down the years.”

To surpass the US by 2025

The Gambian leader berated the failure of Britain to develop The Gambia. He has also recognised the efforts of the former government towards the country’s development, but pointed out that the Jawara-led government fell short of demands and expectations, which prompted him to lead the march to State House. 

“The advent of the second republic marks the graduation from a adhoc, piecemeal and myopic approach to development to a strategic, visionary and proactive approach,” Jammeh said. 

“The various projects that have been inaugurated as highlights of the 22nd July revolution, in almost all sectors, are clear indications that we have continuously been able to plan and implement strategic projects to increase the country’s national socio-economic development in both quantitative and qualitative terms.”

President Jammeh promised further that his government would continue to pursue development-oriented policies and programmes, pledging further that his government intended to launch a medium scale project every three months, and large scale project in every six months.  

He added: “We will further build more universities, in addition to the University of The Gambia, to include specialise institutions in medicine, agriculture, science, technology, engineering and others. We will also build many more general hospitals to ensure that no citizen travels beyond twenty minutes to receive the highest tertiary quality health care.”

No pain, no gain

Jammeh renewed his promise to achieve an economic superpower status for The Gambia by 2025, noting that  the country would surpass world’s economic giants, such as the US and Dubai.

“Why not, we are a small country with a lot of resources and we can do that,” he said. 

He clarified that in practical terms this does not mean he would compete in building skyscrapers. 

He added: “We will ensure the highest quality in the provision and delivery of public services. By 2025 in shaa Allah, no Gambian patient will travel beyond 5 kilometres to get to a tertiary health centre. We will also build more world class colleges and other vocational training centres. These are some of the characteristics of economic superpower status that we envisage to build on from the level of achievement we have so far registered.”

Jammeh noted however that achieving superpower status for the Gambia requires all hands to be on deck and putting an end to dependency syndrome. 

 “Without contributing to national development, we have no moral right to benefit from it,” he continued. “Thus, the ideological shift I am proclaiming at this crucial juncture, in our struggle for complete national emancipation after fifty years of self rule, entails an unflinching adherence to the principle of ‘benefit from what you contribute and contribute to what you benefit from’.”


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