Mr. Chairman, Authority of Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies, Presidents of the Community,
Your Excellency, the Representative of the United Nations in The Sahel,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by commending the Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS,His Excellency, Muhammad Issoufou, for moderating this 56th Ordinary Session. My gratitude also goesto President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Mahamadou Buhari, for hosting us here, in Abuja.
In spite of the progress made towards sustainable regional integration, our Community continues to face threats to peace and security within the sub-region.
Issues of social discrimination, irregular migration, terrorist attacks, land conflicts and environmental concerns, for example, pose a big challenge to us.
Recently, scores of Gambian youths lost their lives at sea due to irregular migration. In this regard, we are thankful to His Excellency, President Muhamed Ould Ghazouani, his Government and the people of Mauritania for rescuing some of those migrants and recovering and burying the bodies of the dead. This incident highlights irregular migration as a major concern to address.
Your Excellency, I join my colleagues to condemn all the recent terrorist attacks in the region- Ouagadougou, Mali and Niger. I extend my condolences to the countries affected for the loss of lives and the unfortunate destruction of property. The Gambia stands by your side in your resolve to fight terrorism.
Terrorism destabilizes communities and states; thus, The Gambia wishes to acknowledge the various consultations initiated. We commend all the concerted efforts, and call upon member states and partners to support the Plan and make available the resources required.
We are conscious that our economic and human resource constraints continue to undermine socio-economic growth. However,The urgency of the situation calls for intensifying our commitment and strategies for sustainable peace, stability and democracy.
My Government’s reform agenda is beginning to yield positive results in promoting good governance, human rights and the rule of law. In fact, we are now acting on the recommendations of the Commission Report on the financial dealings of the former Head of State and his associates.
Consultations on a Draft Constitution are ongoing, and hearings at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission are in progress.
My Government has progressed with the security sector reform programme, aligning it with the ECOWAS Framework. Also, we have a Security Sector Policy supported by a Security Sector Reform Strategy and a National Security Strategy.
All these are outcomes of the strategic support of ECOWAS and other partners for our transitional programme. We appreciate this, and will continue to partner with you for the full realisation of the programme.
The implementation stage, which follows, includes capacity building and right sizing the armed forces.
Meanwhile, the Independent Electoral Commission is undertaking a reform programme to prepare for the 2021 General Elections that will usher in the Third Republic.
All these activities require a peaceful and stable environment. To this end, I thank our partners sincerely for supporting and sustaining the ECOMIG mission in The Gambia. It is contributing immensely to the stability in the country and the protection of our fragile democracy.
Although our Community outreach programme and Institutional framework are being implemented, there is need for a robust environment to pursue the reforms to the end.
Distinguished Colleagues, given our unique situation, I re-echo the plea to this august body to extend the ECOMIG mission in The Gambia to 2021, when the transition process would have given way for the Third Republic to contribute effectively to our regional commitments.
To conclude, I renew my Government’s commitment to making The Gambia a regional model of a peacefully transformed nation from a dictatorship into a true democracy.
Once again, I convey profound gratitude to the Chairman, H.E Mahamadou Issoufou, the ECOWAS Commission and all those who have made this summit a success.
I thank you for your attention.