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The Gambia @58 independence anniversary

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By Dr Henry Carrol

I suddenly woke up from my slumber, the historical date was on Saturday, 18 February, 2023, The Gambia’s 58th Independence Anniversary, I was thrilled to bits and very excited, the great day has finally arrived, “a journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step”, as poetry teaches us.

Historical MacCarthy Square was the fitting venue for the 58th anniversary celebration, officially named after Brigadier Sir Charles MacCarthy, a veteran British soldier in Colonial Gambia, who skillfully affixed 6 big guns/canons in front of the State House, to intercept notorious slave traders, “Quic Quid plantatur solo solo cedit” (Latin i.e., what is attached to the land, is part of the land, or goes with the land). Since The Gambia is a democratic secular state, “La Kum De Nu Kum Walia Din” (Arabic i.e., follow your religion, and let me follow mine), religious prayers started the historical ceremony. Deputy imam Ratib of Banjul, Imam Ebrima Njie, nicely said the Muslim prayer, followed by the Christian prayer, eloquently said by the Most Reverend Bannie EF Manga, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church, The Gambia (my Church), and able Chairman of The Gambia Christian Council (GCC). H.E. President Adama Barrow took The Salute.

Our long journey to Nationhood indeed started in earnest, on 18th February, 1965, when Colonial Gambia attained Nationhood status from old British Colonialism, and emerged as an Independent Nation State, among The Comity Of Nations, it then joined The United Nations Organisation in New York, U.S.A.

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The then Gambians and aliens, gathered at the famous MacCarthy Square, filled with glee and great excitement, to welcome this great and first National Day, the late British Monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, the Royal Daughter of His Majesty King George the 6th, was ably represented at this great ceremony, by the noble Duke and Duchess of Kent, their names were; the Noble Prince Edward and Duchess Katherine. From 23 to 30 July 1964, our new Prime Minister, HE David Kwesi Jawara, led a high-powered Gambian delegation, to attend Colonial Gambia’s Independence Conference at Marlborough House in London, under the able Chairmanship of the Rt Honourable Lord Duncan Sandys, the then secretary of state for the colonies.

The Police band of Colonial Gambia, skillfully played melodious tunes, while members of The Gambia field force, policemen, school shildren, and voluntary organisations, in colourful uniforms, briskly marched past the presidential dias,amidst high profile security, while the Duke and Duchess of Kent, the then British Governor, HE Sir John Paul, and the new Gambian Prime Minister, He David Kwesi Jawara, jointly took the salute. HE David Kwesi Jawara, received The Independence Instrument from The Duke, and he asked The Duke to pass on our gratitude to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, who by then was alive and very well

The Gambia was colonised by Britain from 1821 (19th Century) to 18th February 1965 (20th Century). On 25 May 1765 Colonial Gambia joined The Great British Empire, “The Empire on which the sun never sets”. The Senegambia Province was established, therefore when their Excellencies’, President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (KCMG) of The Gambia and President Mr. Abdou Joof of Senegal, founded The Senegambia Confederation, on 1st February, 1982, this was political history repeating itsself.

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On Thursday, 18 February, 1965, the Union Jack (The British Flag), which had dominated colonial Gambia’s skyline from 1821 to 1965, was finally lowered, and the flag of Independent Gambia was hoisted by an Aku gentleman, late Mr Harry Kates, a founder member of the Boys Scout Association, founded in 1908 by Sir Robert Baden Powell (KCMG), a noble British Citizen, 1857 to 1941.

In July 1961 (my date of birth), Mr ME Jallow of Independent Party and a Trade Unionist, and Mrs Rachael Palmer, a Gambian Nurse, and the wife of Dr Sam Palmer, attended a constitutional conference, at the colonial office in London. From 3 to 5 December 1961, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, made a Royal visit to colonial Gambia. The July 1961 Constitutional Conference, discussed the Gambia’s 1962 constitution, which created an Executive Council headed by The Governor, a Prime Minister, an Attorney General and it created 32-member representatives, and prepared colonial Gambia to attain internal self-rule. Under this constitution, legislative elections were held, from 22 to 31 May 1962, and Sir Dawda’s People’s Progressive Party (PPP), won 18 out of the 32 elected seats, and 8 members were appointed by the Governor General and Protectorate Chiefs.    

The late Mr Louis Thomasi, a famous Gambian accountant, was the father of Mr Marcel Thomasi, an ex-director of information and was among members of National Council for Law Reporting (NCLR), under the then able chairpersonship, of honourable Justice Awa Bah, the then president of the Gambia Court of Appeal, now deservedly a Judge of the Gambia Supreme Court. I was also a member of NCLR, I am now humbly calling on His Excellency President Adama Barrow, to kindly consider conferring a fitting posthumous National Honour on the late and great Mr Louis Thomasi, for skillfully designing our Gambian flag, in recognition of his valuable National Services, as he recently did for our late beloved Vice President, His Excellency DR Badara Joof.

The Colours of our Gambia Flag are :- Red, which represents the sun, Blue, which represents the water of The River Gambia, from which Portuguese explorers (Prince Henry The Navigator) derived our Country’s name, Green, which represents agriculture, the back bone of The Gambia’s economy, and the white colour, which represents peace, which our country is known and respected for, all over the world, hence the opening words of our cherished National Anthem; “For The Gambia our homeland, we strive and work and pray, that all may be in unity, freedom and peace each day…” The anthem was composed by a British couple, Mrs Virginia Julia Howe, who wrote the poetic lyrics, and her husband, Mr Jeremy Fredrick Howe, who provided the melodious music.

The 58th Independence Parade, that was full of pomp and pageantry, was also graced by two former patriotic Gambian vice presidents; Hon Mr Bakary Bunja Darboe, the head of the opposition Gambia For All (GFA), who is now a lawyer, my learned junior at The Gambia Bar, and he was also His Excellency The Gambia’s High Commissioner to Senegal, from 1979 to 1981, the period when I was the male Senegambian table tennis champion, and I was awarded a giant silver table tennis trophy by the Senegalese government, and my counterpart was, Ms Adiatu Coker of Nusrat High School, the then female Senegambian table tennis champion, now residing in Germany.

Hon Dr Isatou Touray, was also at the aforesaid parade, she was among the founders of the famous Gamcotrap NGO, which protects the human rights of Gambian women and children. She, my humble self, etc, and other West African Scholars, co-authored ‘Women and Law In West Africa’, published by University of Ghana, Legon, in 1998, with funding in US Dollars, from Carnegie Corporation in USA. HE President Adama Barrow, rightly acknowledged their presence.

A notable feature of the first Independence Day Celebration, on Thursday, 18 February, 1965, was a nice display by Gambian gymnasts, they formed an attractive triangle and pyramid in the air, disobeying gravity. This prototype and entertaining display by Gambian gymnasts in 1965, was strictly organised by the late Mr James MB Abraham, a good friend and adopted uncle of mine, a Methodist gentleman who was a graduate teacher, at The Gambia High School, and he was an Oxford University-Trained Educationist. May his dear soul rest in peace. “Menes Sana in Copare Sano” (Latin i.e a healthy mind, is to be found in a healthy body).

The precursor of our post-independence annual independence celebrations, was Empire Day Celebrations, which also took place at the MacCarthy Square in Bathurst now Banjul, and successive British Colonial Governors, the last one was HE Sir John Paul (KCMG), took the salute on behalf of the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the 2nd, the then UK Queen and Commonwealth Head, who by then was alive and very well.

British Protected Residents of Colonial Gambia, briskly marched past The Governor, with melodious music provided by The Colonial Police Band. They sang the UK National Anthem “God Save the Queen”. Today His Majesty King Charles III is the UK Monarch and head of the Commonwealth. HE President Adama Barrow, rightly took The Gambia back to the Commonwealth, His Excellency the late Mr Francis Churchill Blain, The Gambia High Commissioner, rehoisted The Gambia’s Flag in London. My learned friend Her Excellency Dr Fatou Bom Bensouda, is now the new Gambia’s High Commissioner to the UK. She is also an ICC Chief Prosecutor Emeritus (2012 to 2021).

Empire Day Celebration, was celebrated on every 24 May, the birthday of my learned brother, Lawyer Mr Wilfred Bola Carrol, Barrister-at-Law (BL). 24 May is also “Rev John Wesley Day”. Founder of The Methodist Church; it is also “Autonomy Day” for our beloved Church. Our first Autonomy Day Celebration was, on 24 May 2009, when our Church finally cut the umbilical cord, which linked our Church to the British Methodist Church for decades; Bishop Norman Grigg was our Bishop. Our Church lawyers present included: Ms Ida Drammeh, Cambridge-Trained, Mr Dayo Dago, Ms Ida Richards, my niece, my humble self, etc.

HE President Adama Barrow, HE Mrs Fatoumatta Bah-Barrow, the Gambia’s 1st Lady, her mate HE Mrs Sarjo Mballow, honourable cabinet ministers, the secretary general, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, senior government officials and heads of parastatals, were all very present at the parade, commemorating The Gambia’s 58th Independence Anniversary, which coincided with HE President Adama Barrow’s 58th birthday anniversary, which fell on 16th February, 2023. He is 2 days older than Independent Gambia. “Democracy a recipe for peace and development”, was the fitting theme for The Gambia @58. Jainaba Touray, a young intelligent Gambian girl, also read out a nice poem, she had written for the anniversary.

The Gambia became a Republic on 24 April 1970, His Excellency Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, metamorphosed to the first Gambian president. Because Governor Sir Faringmang Singhateh (KCMG) was sick, Sir Alieu Sulayman Jack (KCMG), was the acting Governor General. The Gambia’s Coat of Arms, was skillfully designed, by Mr Nicholas Pottin, a Roman Catholic gentleman, who then worked at the Surveys Department. The British Bicameral Parliament (ie House of Commons & House of Lords), passed The Gambia’s Independence Bill in November 1964, Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth the 2nd Of UK gave her Royal assent to this Bill, on 17 December, 1964. The stage was therefore set, for Colonial Gambia’s Independence Day, on 18 February, 1965.

His Excellency President Adama Barrow, the third President and Commander-In-Chief of our Republic, born on 16 February 1965 in 20 Century, 48 hours before Independent Gambia’s Birthday, Colonial Gambia’s beloved baby Moses/Musa, destined to take off from where Methodist gentleman, Edward Francis Small, HE Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (KCMG) etc. stopped. He began his rule on 19th January 2017, in 21st Century, at The Gambia High Commission in Senegal, where “HE the President Elect” was purportedly sworn into office, by Lawyer Sheriff Tambadou, President of The Gambia Bar Association (GBA) and my learned friend at The Gambia Bar. From henceforth HE President Adama Barrow, has been wisely ruling our beloved Republic, in “Peace, Progress and Prosperity”, The National Motto of our cherished Motherland, Long Live His Excellency President Adama Barrow, Long Live Commonwealth Republic of The Gambia. God Bless The Gambia, Her Citizens, Friends and Residents. Amen, Amen, Amen. “To God be the Glory”. Amen.

Poet’s Note:  The poet Dr Henry Carrol (MRG), has officially dedicated this masterpiece freelance poem to His Excellency President Adama Barrow, of the Republic of The Gambia, for the gigantic steps he has taken in national development, from 2016 to date in The Gambia, “The Smiling Coast of Africa”, The ancestral home of legendary Kunta Kinteh, and a popular tourist destination/paradise.

May our colourful and majestic Gambian flag, keep flying to the celestial higher heights – ”they who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall rise up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” – The Holy Bible.

Dr Henry Carrol, (M.R.G), Solicitor General Emeritus (2007 To 2009), Senior Oxford – Trained Lawyer (1994 To Date), founder UTG Law Lecturer from 2007 to date.

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