Mr. President, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives both my wife and myself the greatest possible pleasure to be here in The Gambia, and to have this long-awaited opportunity to visit a country about which we have heard so much. Although we only arrived here yesterday evening, from the warmth and generosity of the welcome we have received it is already clear to us why your country is known so affectionately, the world over, as the Smiling Coast.
Our time in The Gambia will, I am sad to say, be all too short, but nevertheless we look forward to meeting as many of you as we possibly can and to seeing for ourselves something of what makes The Gambia so special. It is clear to us already, however, that we shall have to come back again before too long!
Our visit is an opportunity to celebrate the bonds of friendship between the United Kingdom and The Gambia, the myriad connections between our people and the many areas in which our two countries co-operate. We are friends and partners and, once again, we are both members of the Commonwealth family of nations – a fact which gives me as much pleasure and pride as I know it does to so many of you.
I was delighted to join Her Majesty The Queen in welcoming you, Mr. President, to London in April this year for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and, in so doing, to welcome all Gambians back into the Commonwealth. It was, if I may say so, an important milestone on the new road that The Gambia has chosen in turning your back on twenty-two years of autocratic rule in order to embrace a new beginning.
Today, the United Kingdom and The Gambia can once again work together to defend our shared Commonwealth values and to promote democracy, human rights, tolerance and the Rule of Law. So, too, can we commit ourselves, together, to addressing with all urgency some of the most pressing challenges facing our world – such as climate change, resource depletion, youth unemployment and rapid urbanisation – and to do so by harnessing the remarkable professional expertise and experience upon which the Commonwealth and her member states can draw.
At the same time, I appreciate just how much determination there is here in The Gambia – on your part, Mr. President, and that of your government, as well as among The Gambia's vibrant civil society – that this country, and her people, should realize their extraordinary potential. Please know that the United Kingdom, and the other members of the Commonwealth, stand with you all as you build your country anew and work to ensure that each of you, your children and your grandchildren, have the bright future that you so richly deserve.