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Jammeh Still Critical of Nepad

17 April 2003

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The New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) has come under serious criticism from President Jammeh for what he sees as a faltering start to putting it into practical action by its initiators.

President Jammeh and his Malian counterpart Amadou Toumani Toure who recently concluded a state visit held a common point that NEPAD has not been submitted to ordinary African with a view to understanding what is all about and paving the way for a popular participatory approach to development as enshrined by its blueprint. Although both leaders advanced suggestions on what needs to be done for the project to succeed in Africa they took advantage of a joint news conference held at the VIP lounge of the Banjul International Airport, marking the end of President Toure's three-day working visit to The Gambia to make critical statements about how NEPAD was being allowed to fall into the same category as other African initiatives which never took off.

For President Jammeh it would be impossible for NEPAD to succeed if Africans do not work as a united bloc to bring its objective into fruition for the ordinary African. He argued that Africans should work hard for their own development, instead of waiting for outsiders to help them develop their countries.

Although he underlined the importance of African partnership especially towards socio-economic development of nations in the spirit of NEPAD, he said it was wrong to give the impression that the success or otherwise of the initiative depended on the intervention of the developed world who he said cannot develop the continent for Africans. "It is Africans who can carry their own burden and address their problems before any outside help can count" he argued. Over the years, President Jammeh has repeatedly critiqued the NEPAD project, which is being spearheaded by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

On 22nd July 2001 in commemoration of the anniversary of his 1994 coup Jammeh had declared unmistakably that NEPAD would fail, principally because it was being supported by the same western countries "who during the colonial period looted us and took away our mineral resources".

On the home front, the president again justified the need to engage in mass agricultural production to develop the country's economy and provide a climate where Gambians would be their own employers in ventures that could serve their interest and that of The Gambia.

For his part, the Malian President, Amadou Toumani Toure affectionately known as (ATT) criticised some African leaders for "talking too much about NEPAD, but fail to tell the ordinary Africans what NEPAD is all about".

President Toure said it was high time that African leaders stopped what he called their "philosophical interpretation of the initiative and pave the way for the actual involvement of the grassroots for whom it is supposedly packaged. For us in Mali, our agriculture and infrastructure projects have been waiting for NEPAD" President Toure told reporters through an interpreter.

Responding to questions on why he visited the Gambia, President Toure said his visit revolved around the issue of access to the ports of Banjul and Kaur by Mali for trading purposes. He said he is envisaging maritime investment between the two countries, pointing out that Bamako was using the port of Abidjan for business before the start of the conflict in that country. Now President Toure believes that with the approval of The Gambia government they would be working towards a healthier business climate with Banjul. ATT spoke about the serious impact the Ivorian crisis was unleashing on the Malian economy. According to him approximately 205 of his citizens were living in Abidjan but many have been evacuated underlining the need for peace in the region.

Speaking about the unfair gold trade around the world, President Toure said Mali is producing gold but they benefit by only 20 percent from the trade.

"Being the second largest producer of cotton in Africa, we do not produce T-Shirts" he dismally observed. He added that in the run-up to his election as president last year, he visited Asia to print T-Shirts to be used during the campaign. Mr. Toure, however wondered why some of Mali's natural resources are just disappearing without any explainable reason but vowed to change the trend, which he began by appealing to Malians to cooperate with him in developing Mali.

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