TALKING POINT FOR SEPTEMBER PRESS BRIEFING
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another press briefing as we approach the end of September.
Since our last briefing, there have quite a lot newsworthy developments and many of you have reported on them. Still, it is worth briefly touching on some of them, and speaking on a few pertinent issues before we go to questions.
I thought I should start with one of the most obvious, and that is our national electricity supply situation. The frequent electricity outages that we are experiencing are a phenomenon that ALL Gambians are facing every day now. This situation deserves some explanation. In the last few weeks and even days, the power outages have become more frequent than ever.
We have consulted with my colleague, Minister Fafa Sanyang, and the management of NAWEC for an explanation as to what the problem is and when Gambians can expect stable and reliable electric power supply. They, in fact, recently held a press conference to address this, but the message is worth repeating. Here are the issues:
The frequent power outages are being caused by ongoing maintenance of some of the generators, and this is resulting I extensive load- shedding due to inadequate power supply to meet the demand.
The crux of the problem is that we have been working with aged and obsolete equipment, some of which is almost 30 years old.
The Gambia acquired some of these generators second –hand as decommissioned equipment from other parts of the world three decades ago. So to even say that they are on their last legs would be an understatement. However, plans are underway to replace these old generators with new ones.
Out of the four generators in operation at Kotu Power Station, for instance, only three are now in operation. The faulty one was shut down last week for maintenance due to a mechanical fault.
At the Brikama Power Station, only four generators are in operation out of six. This is because of their scheduled maintenance periods. One of the two non-functioning generators is expected to be back in operation by the end of this week, or by the first week of October at the latest.
NAWEC is implementing a number of projects to increase the generators capacity through the support of the World Bank. This entails the supply of new generators. One of the new generators with a 6.5 megawatt capacity will be installed, commissioned and ready for commercial operations by the end of October at the Kotu Power Station.
NAWEC will also install a second new generator at the Brikama Power Station which is expected to be commissioned and ready for commercial operation by the end of November.
However, due to delays in finalizing the contact for the replacement of the 8.9 megawatt Wartslia engine, this generator will be installed and available for commercial operations by February, 2018.
NAWEC is also implementing a new 11 megawatt generator expansion project at the Kotu Power Station. They will have this generator installed, commissioned and ready for commercial operations by the end of December.
With these additional generators, we expect the national electricity power supply situation to definitely stabiles in the short –term, while NAWEC implements other projects like Islamic Development Bank- funded 20 megawatt project in Brikama, and other plans in keeping with the country’s Energy Sector Roadmap.
The President’s UNGA Attendance
And now, let me touch on other developments,. As you know, The Gambia joined other nations on the international stage as President Adama Barrow addressed the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. He also signed the following five new treaties while in New York:
$11. The Abolition of the Death Penalty as part of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights;
$12. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, and Member of their Families;
$13. The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
$14. The United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty- Based Investor- State Arbitration; and
$15. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Kuntaur Flood Assistance Effort
Here at home, we of course witnessed the terrible flooding that affected the people of Kuntaur and surrounding villages in August. There was a well-coordinated general mobilization of assistance to the people of the entire area. The Vice President, accompanied by a high- powered delegation, made two visits to the area within a week. The aid mobilization effort is still continuing with people of goodwill, both home and abroad, making generous donations.
Pilgrimage, Visit to Sierra Leone
In other developments, President Barrow and some other members of the government went to perform the Hajj, one of the most important pillars of Islam in Mecca.
I on my part also paid a visit to Freetown as a special envoy of President Barrow to commiserate with the government and people of Sierra Leone, following the deadly mudslides that claimed over 1000 lives last month.
Truth, Reconciliation & Reparations Commission
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice recently made a successful country-wide tour to consult with the people on the setting up of the prosed Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. We had all seen the large turn-out in virtually all the places he and his delegation visited, with the people welcoming the idea of a truth and reconciliation.
Security Sector Reform
President Barrow recently inaugurated the Security Sector Reform Project. The objective of this project, as he had said, is to ensure an effective and accountable security sector under democratic control, with full respect for human rights, the rule of law, and fundamental principles of good governance. We are pleased to have the support of the United Nations and other partners on tis initiatives by the Barrow administration to transform the country’s security sector into institutions that are effective, professional and accountable to the state and the people of The Gambia.
The Janneh Commission investigating the financial activities of former President Yahya Jammeh continues its proceedings, and the whole country had been following these closely, off course based on your continued coverage and reports.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad also recently organized an induction seminar for newly appointed diplomatic envoys, in preparation for their new assignments.