Prince Completes Historic Visit to The Gambia, Assures UK-Commonwealth Support
At the official welcoming held at the McCarthy Square in Banjul, The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles greeted the crowd with the local dialects from four of The Gambia’s major local languages. The crowds cheered and screamed in greeting him back. This is the third royal visit of members of the British Royal family to The Gambia, dating back to 1925.
“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,” he said at the ceremony.
At the State dinner hosted in his honour, the Prince began his speech by repeating the same style of greetings. The words came just as the British volunteers that serve in the country for years spoke the local languages. It was as if he had stayed here for months already. He and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, arrived on the evening of Wednesday, 31st October, 2018.
The Royal couple were received by His Excellency President Adama Barrow, along with the First Lady and senior government officials at the airport. Two nights later, the Prince was assuring the government of the full support of UK and the Commonwealth to The Gambia during this crucial transition.
“Gambia and her people have got extra-ordinary potentials. We should all work to see that realised in every way,” the Prince told President Barrow at the state dinner attended by top government officials, diplomats in the country, and members of civil society.
“I remember quite clearly the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh returning from their own visit to The Gambia in 1961, when I was just thirteen, and telling me how much they had enjoyed their time here,” the Prince explained at the state dinner.
He recalled seeing photographs that his father took here, and thinking how marvellous it would be to visit one day. Little did he know it would take him nearly fifty-seven years to get to The Gambia himself! “Having enjoyed our visit as we have, all I can say, however, is that it has been well worth the wait. The warmth of your hospitality mirrors that of the welcome that my wife and I have been so touched to receive throughout our stay in The Gambia,” he said.
He went on to propose a toast for the prosperity of The Gambia; for stronger ties between the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and The Gambia.
President Adama Barrow earlier proposed a toast to the good health and long life of the Prince. He described the visit as another celebration of democracy following The Gambia’s welcome back to the Commonwealth in April this year. The President explained that barely two years ago, The Gambia decided to turn its back on tyranny and oppression; today, it has fully embraced freedom and democracy.
President Barrow extolled the UK for their support to The Gambia’s transition process, through medical research, education, defense and civil society engagement, among other institutional strengthening measures. He used the occasion to congratulate the Prince of Wales on his 70th birthday in November, which coincided with the visit to The Gambia.
The Prince was greeted to a tumultuous welcome by citizens and cultural troops alike, representing various ethnic groups in The Gambia. Citizens lined the airport highway to his hotel, waving Gambian and the UK flags and shouting, “welcome!”
On the 1st November 2018, he began the day with a meeting with His Excellency the President of the Republic of The Gambia, Adama Barrow at the State House in Banjul. Later on, they arrived at the formal welcoming held at the McCarthy Square. Here, the Prince remarked that from the warmth and generosity of the welcome he received, it was already clear to them why The Gambia “is known so affectionately, the world over, as the Smiling Coast”.
“We are friends and partners. 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,” he said as the crowd cheered.
The Duchess of Cornwall, also accompanied by the First Lady of The Gambia, visited St. Therese’s school – one of the leading mission schools in The Gambia. After ribbon cutting and a conducted tour of the school’s library, the two proceeded to watch and listen as students perform plays, songs and poems at the school grounds.
It was an opportunity for them to interact with the students currently participating in the Commonwealth Essay Competition. A tree was planted in their honour at the school, where both ladies took turns to shovel soil on the hole where the tree got planted. An assortment of donated school materials was handed to the students.
In another engagement, The Prince of Wales also visited The Gambia Armed Forces Training School in Fajara. He was taken around the training facilities of the school by the Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Massaneh Kinteh. The Medical Research Council and the London School of Medicine and Allied Sciences facility was also visited, before ‘The Big Lunch’ at the British High Commissioner’s residence.
Next stop was the visit to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Fajara, where fallen heroes of The Gambia platoon of the World War II were laid to rest. The Prince laid a wreath and inspected the grave stones before heading for another meeting with tourism entrepreneurs on ecotourism in The Gambia.
Their Royal Highnesses left Banjul on the 2nd November to Ghana and later to Nigeria to continue their tour of Africa.