Your Excellency, First Lady
Your Excellency, Vice President
Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly
My Lord, Chief Justice
Hon. Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service
Honourable Ministers, Venerable Religious Leaders
Hon. Members of the National Assembly
Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp
Chairman and Members of the University Governing Council, Vice-Chancellor and Members of Senate
Distinguished invited Scholars
Staff and Students of the University
Distinguished Guests, Graduates, members of the media, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am indeed delighted and honoured to participate in the 10th Convocation Ceremony of the University of The Gambia. As you are aware, this is my maiden address to Convocation since I assumed the mantle of leadership of this country almost a year ago. From the outset, I congratulate all graduates and their families for the achievement and success being celebrated today.
Convocation is an important milestone in the educational journey of a student as it marks the end of one stage in the journey through life, and the beginning of another.
It is also an important occasion for society, because the stock of educated and qualified human resources on whom it relies for its development and transformation is increased and strengthened by that number of graduating young men and women. Thus, Convocation provides not only an opportunity for celebration, but also an occasion for reflection and for us to reason together.
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen The focus of this maiden address on this special day is the all-important theme of Human Rights and Development. As we witness and celebrate the dawn of a new era in Gambian history, we renew our determination in pursuit of human rights and development across our nation. We are conscious of the opportunity and responsibility to promote and uphold the fundamental dignity and equality of all people.
It is with extreme gratitude to our new Government and the great and beautiful people of The Gambia that I make this brief statement today. With thanks to Allah the Almighty, the New Gambia has the energy and determination to promote and protect freedom, peace and stability, and enact the highest level of human rights. As a fundamental priority of our Government, Gambians will increasingly enjoy the rights and freedom that enhance their development across all spheres.
The right to development itself is a basic human right, and entitles all people in our country to contribute to the economic, social, cultural and political advancement of The Gambia, whereby our fundamental freedoms can be fully respected and realized.
While our Government is entrusted to exercise power, so too it is assigned to ensure the basic needs of its people. I therefore, wish to reaffirm our Government’s commitment to meeting these needs.
The importance of human rights education cannot be over- emphasised. Through meaningful education as undertaken by our new graduates, we hope to encourage the graduates to work with society to promote, protect and advance human rights, justice and dignity for every Gambian in keeping with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Our Government is committed to ensure and sustain the right to education for all, as education will certainly facilitate our nation’s economic, social, cultural and political development. Our conviction here is that respect for human rights and the rule of law coupled with strong and accountable institutions will strengthen our democracy and enhance the full enjoyment of its benefits.
Hosting the flagship of human rights in the African continent, The Gambia is grateful for the confidence and commitment of the African Commission, and a Government that has totally recognised its mandate.
The Banjul Charter continues to be a living testimony to The Gambia’s historic and traditional commitment to the principles and core values of human rights and development. You will agree that New Gambia is no less committed to Human Rights than the Founding Fathers of this great nation.
Since its inauguration last January, this new Government has set free hundreds of prisoners and signed several International Treaties and Protocols including the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Abolition of the Death Penalty and the Convention against Enforced Disappearances.
A new Constitution steeped in the respect for human rights and a Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission are in the final stages of development. These concrete steps designed to strengthen human rights and facilitate national development are further aided by the creation of a legal, political and social architecture aligned with the highest standards of human rights, freedom and justice.
Our Government has produced a holistic National Development Plan as a blueprint for the advancement and mainstreaming of human rights across all sectors of Government particularly in the security, justice, health and education sectors.
It is my belief that our graduates here today can and will assist in this process as the New Gambia grows and develops into a vibrant and sustainable democracy.
It is no doubt, it is an exciting and interesting time to live and work in this nation. With new freedoms and levels of peace and stability ushered in by our new Government, Gambians and residents in The Gambia will experience the unprecedented full enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
Through the interdependence of rights, education and development, I am convinced that our students can and will assist government in progressive processes that will not only align The Gambia with international best practices in human rights, but also re-claim our nation’s traditional position as champion for values that were first codified in the Banjul Charter.
The Gambia, until recently, has been recognised as a haven of peace, human rights, justice and democracy within the continent.
I therefore challenge, with sincere hope, gratitude and anticipation, all Gambians including the graduates here today to pursue our basic human right with dignity, equality, freedom, peace and stability for the sake of our common progress and prosperity.
To the graduates, Today is your day!!
You have every reason to feel proud of yourselves, and to celebrate your well-earned success.
As you can tell from the reaction of all of us who have come to support you this morning, we are extremely happy that you are now ready to join the world of work which is very different from your life as a student. You will need to keep your integrity and humility.
As Ambassadors of University of The Gambia, you need to remember that the three things that can make you a man or woman and which will differentiate between success and failure in life are your hard work, sincerity and commitment.
Remember that three things that may never be lost on you are peace, hope and honesty. Make the best use of your time and opportunities that come your way.
Always remember that in the real world, you should always expect the best, prepare for the worst, capitalize on every opportunity and always cultivate and maintain a positive mindset.
In conclusion, let me also emphasize that the degree you have earned is not a badge of exclusiveness, nor is it something that should create in you a superiority complex. Remember that you are and will still be part and parcel of society.
As a matter of fact your graduation has created a new obligation for each of you – an obligation to prepare to give back to society some of the privileges that society had bestowed on you and what you have derived from higher education.
Once again, on behalf of New Gambia and on my own behalf, I congratulate you and wish you every success in your future endeavors.
I thank you all for your kind attention.