Fellow Gambians, I am delighted that Gambians have demonstrated that they want to nurture the change they have made in December 2016 Presidential election. We have chosen our representatives through the ballot box and sent a clear signal that The Gambia has the power to decide and has indeed decided on who to represent them in the National Assembly. On the 6th April, Gambians entrusted their votes to 53 candidates out of 238 across the political parties, who vied for the National Assembly.
I thank all Gambians for going through the campaign in a mature and peaceful manner to canvass for votes. The unprecedented number of candidates in this National Assembly election is a manifestation of the freedom Gambians have begun to enjoy since the change of government in December 2016. This is one of the first great achievements of the new Gambia. We would continue to ensure that the desire of Gambians to have freedom of expression and association is respected and entrenched. We have ensured that the law that puts a financial barrier to the effective participation of citizens in elections is reviewed. Thereby, the deposit for National Assembly elections was reduced from GMD50,000 to GMD5,000. This made it possible for more Gambians to exercise their rights to run for a seat in the national assembly, and thus 239 candidates were initially registered with the Independent Electoral Commission.
Fellow Gambians, this election has further strengthened my Coalition government by having the required strength of representation in the Assembly. The National Assembly will be able to support the right laws and policies for our government to bring about the legal, institutional and economic reforms that Gambians have assigned us to move the country forward.
During my recent tour of the county, I have taken note of the urgent needs of Gambians such as the need for drugs in our health facilities, infrastructural development such as feeder roads, electricity and clean water supply amongst others. Our people have also expressed the need for urgent support for agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and farm implements. All these will require the support of the National Assembly as an oversight institution to make sure that the quality of governance is strengthened, laws are respected and the policies are implemented.
Fellow Citizens, this transitional government needs to build a strong foundation that future governments can build upon to make sure that we transform and sustain our institutions as well as provide economic growth. We can only succeed by working together as a nation. While we respect our diversity in opinion, we can always come to consensus to build our nation. I call on all Gambians no matter which party they belong, to join hands and work as Gambians. So far $25 million is available from the Islamic Development Bank to support farmers with groundnut seeds and fertilizers for the upcoming rainy season.
I congratulate the winners and better luck next time to the losers. Emotions may be high when the results were announced but I urge all Gambians to maintain the peaceful atmosphere that prevailed during the campaign. My government will not accept post-election violence to disrupt our focus for nation building. Gambians have decided and their verdict must be respected. The world is watching and we can be a model for democracy.
Fellow Gambians, I urge all of us to put our positive energies together and stand strong in building the New Gambia. We want a Gambia where citizens will enjoy their freedom and dignity through socioeconomic development and respect for the rule of law.
I would like to conclude by thanking all our partners, including the United Nations Development Programme, the European Union, ECOWAS and all other partners who supported the Independent Electoral Commission – IEC and The Gambia in general with financial and technical support to have a successful and peaceful election. I also commend friends of the Gambia, Gambians in the Diaspora, and the local and international observers for a job well done.
I would like to thank all institutions including the security forces for making it possible for our citizens to exercise their franchise.