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Tourism and Culture Minister Chairs Banjul’s End-of-Year Cultural Festival Stakeholder Meeting

By Yunus S Saliu

Minister of Tourism and Culture, Honourable Abdoullahi Jobe, on Wednesday, presided over the organized Banjul End of Year Cultural Festival Stakeholder Meeting held at the Ministry’s Conference Room, Banjul.

The stakeholder’s meeting was organized by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTC) in conjunction with the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and it was meant to chart a way forward to better organize one of the annual festivals in the Gambia, as regarding safety, security, crowd control, transportation, and others.

The Banjul End of Year Cultural Festival popularly refer as hunting is a weeklong cultural festival that commences on Christmas Eve and ends at the cock crow of the second day of the New Year with over 50,000 attendees – Gambians and non-Gambians alike from home and away. The highlight of the festival is the parade of about fifty hunting (‘Egungun’ masquerade) groups among them are Odilleh, Ekun Baba, Gun Shot, and Saul Sow Carnival.

Presiding over the inaugural meeting of this important meeting, Honourable Abdoullahi Jobe, Minister of Tourism and Culture said his Ministry recognized the importance of this and its values.

He iterated that the Gambia is a tourism destination while noting that it is at the peak of the tourism season – December and January that a huge number of foreigners and people in the diaspora do come to the destination for holidays and partake in this colourful event.

Minister Jobe noted that “It is one of the biggest activities that attract a lot of people to the country where we have spectacular history and all these hunting societies in Banjul also organized themselves to perform tremendously,” for their audiences and fans.

He noted that these groups have been performing time immemorial and there is “existing support which the government has been given to these societies in Banjul when the festival is approaching under the direct responsibility of the NCAC. But this year, we want to upscale it as regarding how the government will be able to mobilize additional resources to support the associations on this programs.”

The Minister however made it known that the objective of the meeting is not about the monetary support but how to improve it taking into consideration the security, safety, and convenience of the people among other issues that will continue to make it a worthwhile festival.

“And I want to assure you all that this year, under my leadership, whatever resources available will be used to support the event, it will be done in a very transparent and respectable way. So that every one of you will see yourself in it so that nobody is found wandering,” Minister Jobe assured the stakeholders.
Supporting his assertion, he said starting from New Year’s Eve to Christmas and icing on the cake, which is New Year’s Day, “The number of people that come to Banjul for this one-week event are enormous,” so there is a need for new strategy and plans that will allow everyone to enjoy the festival without stress.
This is by considering “Security, safety, transportation, free movement, parking, hassle-free and all to make it a better and bigger festival, a reason that we decided to bring all the government entities together as a team to chart way forward.” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Minister described the forum as an inaugural meeting that will continue to take place every month till the celebration of the festival while noting that similar meetings will also be organized for all other big festivals across the country for safety and security purposes, conducive environment among other things that make the festival a renown one.

Speaking earlier, Hassoum Ceesay, Director General of the NCAC welcomed the Minister on this one-of-a-kind meeting while thanking him for taking it upon himself to preside on it and as well to chair other similar meetings for the festivals.

All along, the group representatives at the stakeholder’s meeting all praised Minister Abdoullahi Jobe for this initiative that aimed to make the festival, memorable and enjoyable. Among other points highlighted and at the meeting included safety and security, transportation, parking space, creation of temporary WC in strategic places for use, waste management, request for security personnel to stay around for extra hours after the close of the festival for security purpose and avoiding of congestion, creating of stalls, sales of souvenir items and so on.

Consequently, as demanded by the groups, the National Centre for Arts and Culture has formed the following task force committees for the Banjul New Year Cultural Festival, these included traffic Flow and Parking Committee, Transport Committee, Safety Committee, Waste Management Committee, and Security Committee while the next meeting is scheduling for 7th of August for all committees to present activities plan.

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Yunus S Saliu

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