Diplomatic History

History Celebrating The Gambia-Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) Ties: A Look At the Archives, 1982

By Hassoum Ceesay, Historian February 4, 2022

Early this week I was busy at work at the National Archives in Banjul, and I came across intriguing revelations about the solid friendship that have marked The Gambia-PRC relations 40 years ago. As I explained a few months back, soon after Banjul-Peking diplomatic ties were established in late 1974, the Chinese Foreign Ministry showed much goodwill and earnestness by sending one of their experienced diplomats Mr. Chen Shi-Pei, as Charge D’Affaires to Banjul and he took up post late in December 1974, barely six weeks after ties were established.

Later during a visit to Peking in 1975, Jawara signed agreements for the construction of a sports stadium, which became known as the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hostel, and six health centres. Indeed, the Chinese immediately went into action and honoured these commitments.

‘PRC Starts Building Health Centres in M.I.D’ said the front page headline in the Government daily, The Gambia News Bulletin. According to the report, a construction team from PRC was building new health centre at Kudang in the Maccarthy Island Division.

‘The project is a part of the efforts by the PRC to support The Gambia reach health for all by the year 2000. The facilities of the Kudang health centre will include an outpatient wing that can cater for 200 people; a small operating room; a small lab; a pharmacy and a kitchen and laundry space. There will also be a 75 KW generating set provided’. The report further stated that the facility will provide health services for 7000 people within a radius of 16 KM of Kudang.

Kudang and environs were also to provide the labour force for the construction of the facility, the report quoted the Chinese team leader Mr. Chang as saying.

The Kudang health centre was one of others at Farafenni, Kiang Karantaba, Kaur and YeroBawol that were been built by Chinese bilateral aid at this time. It was thanks to these Chinese built major health centres that the Primary Health Care(PHC) became a Gambian success story.

Another project that was going on at the time of the early 1980s with Chinese support was the construction of the D32 million Independence Stadium and Friendship Hostel in Bakau. In November 1982, the new Gambian Vice President B.B Dabo visited the construction site with the Chinese Ambassador Mr. Lu Ching.

‘The project is a magnificent gesture of friendship’, said The Gambian Vice President. ‘The concrete construction symbolizes the strong ties between The Gambia and China’ the Ambassador was quoted in The Gambia News Bulletin of 15 November 1982. For the past four decades the stadium has remained the iconography of Gambian sports development. Indeed, the recent success of our football team can be attributed directly to the sports infrastructure that the stadium has afforded our country.

Hassoum Ceesay, noted historian and author was alumni 2018 Seminar on Think-tanks for English-speaking African Countries, Zhejiang Normal University,  Zhejiang Province, China

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