After many years of waiting to no avail, but just few years of promise by His Excellency the President Adama Barrow, the people of Upper River Region finally got the bridges to connect their north and south banks of the River Gambia and its tributaries, and a road to continue the main trunk road from Basse through Fatoto to Koina.
The Upper River Region which is the farthest and last region of the country can now boost of having a first class asphalt road from Basse to Koina plus four new bridges all conceived, designed, constructed, and completed within a time span of 48 months, with a grant of about US$81 Million from the People’s Republic of China to the Government of The Gambia.
His Excellency President Adama Barrow, on Saturday 9th October, 2021, accompanied by the first lady, Her Excellency Fatoumatta Bah - Barrow, the Speaker of National Assembly, Madam Mariam Jack - Denton, Honourable Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, and other 12 Cabinet Ministers and their Permanent Secretaries, the Governor of URR, the Managing Directors, National Assembly members, Traditional Rulers, members of The Diplomatic and Consular community, the Chinese contractors and consultants, citizens of the Upper River Region and other Regions, students, all witnessed the inaugural opening ceremony of the project – the URR Road and Bridges Project.
It is widely admitted that the new infrastructure will drastically improve the socio- economic life of the people of the region, by connecting the communities in the Region, as well as providing easier access to education and health facilities, farms, and markets, thus allowing increased trading of farm produces, without the challenges and delays of the past.
In his speech, His Excellency President Adama Barrow assured the people of URR of many more infrastructural projects and the country as a whole. He highlighted the cordial and fruitful bi-lateral relationship between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Gambia since the dawn of his government some five years ago.
He added that this special relationship between the two countries will grow from strength to strength, for the mutual benefit of the citizens of both China and The Gambia. He reaffirmed that the projects were promises he made to the people of the URR in 2016 presidential campaign, that he would bring infrastructural development to their door step. “I have fulfilled my promises,” he told the cheering crowd.
President Barrow, cutting the ribbon of Basse – Koina road
President Barrow further said that the four bridges and roads will enhance greatly the movement of people, goods, and services not only in the Upper River Region, but as well in the sub-region at large.
The Gambian leader commended the People’s Republic of China for supporting his government in achieving this long awaited dream, for the people of Upper River Region, and for the country as a whole, and said that The Gambia will continue to support the one-China policy.
Honourable Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure described the ceremony as a historic moment, noting that the completed project was a campaign promise which came true, despite the effects of covid-19.
“From conception to completion, this Project has been one of the fastest, in the annals of project implementation, in this country, given its scope, project amount, and complexity,” he said.
Minister Jobe further stated that the project provided employment opportunities for the people of the region, especially the youth, but also provided capacity building opportunities and upskilling for workers in the different trades, such as carpentry, welding, masonry, road construction etc. “The project generated over 500 workers at times during peak periods,” he told the gathering.
He expressed his appreciations to all those who participated in different ways for the successful completion of the project. The Minister thanked the People’s Republic of China for providing the funding for the project.
The Economic and Commercial Counselor of The Chinese Embassy in The Gambia, Mr. Lou, on behalf of the Ambassador of PRC to The Gambia, His Excellency Ma Jianchun, expressed his government’s desire to continuously work with the government of The Gambia for the mutual benefit of both countries.
He said the project manifest the high quality and standard of work by the Chinese people in terms of design, construction, and completion of the project.
Mr. Samba Bah, Governor of Upper River Region, the Chief of Fulladu East, and Selou Bah, the Alkalo of Basse, all registered their appreciation for the Project, which was finally realized for the Region by the current administration of President Adama Barrow, noting that they had waited for over five decades and with two previous administrations to no avail.
The President also presented certificates and gifts to the Chinese contractors and consultants. The event was followed by the cutting of ribbons. The first stop was at the Basse junction of the 47 kilometres of new road to Fatoto. The next inaugurations were at the new Chamoi and Sudowol bridges, along the new road, among jubilant villagers from the surrounding areas. At Fatoto, the President and entourage were welcomed by a very large crowd; after the ribbon cutting, the President drove himself and the First Lady across the bridge. The tour ended at the north bank end of the Basse bridge.
Large crowds were on the bridge and on both banks. It was already nightfall, but the bridge was brightly lit by energy from solar panels of the lamp posts on the bridge. Amid the jubilation, with drumming and singing, the President inaugurated the bridge by cutting the ribbon and unveiling a bronze plague.
He then made a statement, naming the bridge after Samba Juma, an old and generous boatman, who was well known in the community of Basse, for ferrying schoolchildren, the old, and the sick, as free service to his community, for many years before his demise.
Finally, the inauguration of the URR Roads and Bridges Project ended at the Samba Juma Bridge, as the Presidential motorcade departed to Makamang Kunda, and the Basse crowd slowly vanished into the night.
By Lamin Njie
Assistant Information Officer
Cabinet Ministers at the Event