By Bakary Ceesay
The Dakar-based French Ambassador to The Gambia, His Excellency, Christophe Bigot, has paid farewell to the President, His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow at the State House on Monday, June 24, 2019 after a completion of his tour of diplomatic duty.
The President Barrow has nothing but kind words for the “excellent cooperation and friendship between France and The Gambia” over the past two years, thanks to the work of Ambassador Bigot. The President expressed his determination to further strengthen relations between France and the European Union, in the spirit of the new democracy in The Gambia.
Ambassador Bigot, emerging from closed-door meeting with the President, explained that his frequent visits to Banjul were borne out of need to support the new Gambia – a decision that France made as early as December 2016 by welcoming President Adama Barrow at the France-Africa Summit in Bamako, followed by his first State visit to Paris.
Ambassador Bigot resumed from a weekend travel to the Upper River Region in eastern Gambia, where he saw project sites between Basse and Fatoto for Euros 10 million agricultural production with the support of the French Development Agency.
“We have continued our commitment through several dimensions, with the first visit of the French Foreign Minister to Banjul in November 2018. France is also the first development partner to pledge funds at the Brussels conference as grant to The Gambia at a tune of Euros 55 million,” he explained.
In early 2020, France will also fund a Euros 15 million water supply enhancement project for the Greater Banjul Area through the national utility company, NAWEC. In terms of education, French teachers are also getting assistance to enhance their language teaching capabilities as Gambia has made the decision to be part of the French speaking organization now. A new French school will be opened this year at the French cultural centre, Alliance Francais.
“Gambia’s democracy is very young and it needs to be protected. That is why we have promoted the training of the Police intervention Unit (PIU) through the office of the National Security Adviser, for 40 officers as a first step,” the diplomat said, noting that such trainings need to go forward in other areas of cooperation.
Over the past two years, the French diplomat said he was witnessed a lot of positive changes to the country’s democracy and future. France decided to open a diplomatic antenna in Banjul this year, and appoint a Charge d’Affairs who will represent France in a more active way on the ground.
However, all these work he started with the government of President Adama Barrow will now fall on the shoulders of a successor to be identified by Paris when he returns. Ambassador Bigot described this farewell as a moment that is sad for both him and the President.
“It is dear to me and close to my heart to be a part of Gambia’s transition journey. The next stage for Banjul and Paris is to forge links between companies and universities; NGOs and the people of both countries. These are important steps towards sustaining the gains registered,” he added.