By Ebrima G. Sankareh, Editor-in-Chief
At the unveiling of a record €75 Million Financial Aid Package given to poverty-stricken Gambia by the European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, last Thursday, an elated President Adama Barrow delivered a measured speech lamenting two decades of destruction Yaya Jammeh’s despotic regime dealt the fragile economy of the mini West African nation leading to a state of “virtual bankruptcy”, (a dictatorship that eventually) deprived the country of development and aid”.
According to Adama Barrow: “As a new government, what we have inherited is an economy that is virtually bankrupt and in need of immediate restoration (a) sad reality brought about by mismanagement …and what is truly sad, is that our debt burden has reached unsustainable level due to wasteful public spending.” Mr. Barrow went on to paint an even more austere picture of the state of affairs of The Gambia across the spectrum thus: “Our economy, public institutions, including the Civil Service, the Judiciary and the Security Services need urgent structural reforms in order to realise our commitments”, he declared.
In our view, no institution needs immediate and most urgent structural reforms (i.e. fixing) than The Gambia’s moribund Diplomatic and Consular Services that for the past two decades have witnessed a terrible decline. In total earnestness; one devoid of hyperbole and sarcasm, if one were to give an honest assessment of the state of affairs of The Gambia’s diplomatic corps, nothing could be more precise than “ a decadent institution that teeters on the brink of professional atrophy” and given the degree of malfeasance that continues to prevail over this institution, these words may still be charitable.
In particular, The Gambian Embassy in Washington , DC has been relegated to a mafia Boys’ Club where mostly, spineless, egocentric charlatans with less than High school education, have been jettisoned to serve President Jammeh’s private errands at the expense of more important diplomatic and consular duties for which they were supposedly hired to perform in the first place. I hate to say this, but it is the truth, that almost a decade now, the Gambian Embassy in Washington, DC, has been reduced to a diplomatic laughing stock where so-called diplomats who could barely comprehend basic after-dinner bedtime lullabies sit behind elaborate high-tech desks, browsing the Internet; always on their personal mobile phones talking to political operatives in the Diaspora, or mostly, casing fabricated intelligence reports on innocent Gambian citizens sending dossiers of lies to the US Department of State and the Gambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs branding them “terrorists, subversives and criminals”.
Knowing what I know now, I have no doubt that once he begins to read through his predecessors’ files, Lawyer A.N.M. Ousainou Darboe, Gambia’s new Chief diplomat will be stupefied at the level of mediocrity and irrational cruelty to which some of our Washington diplomats have descended over the past years acting as secret agents on behalf of Yaya Jammeh’s police state instead of duly representing the citizens whose taxes pay their diplomatic salaries and fees. We pay for their toiletries, their food and their allowances put together yet, at work, they lie to their teeth to bury us six feet deep and the files are there— at Foreign Affairs, at NIA, at President’s Office and elsewhere; and when they are uncovered, so many liars and pretenders will be exposed.
Lest we forget, in August 2008, The Gambia Echo serialised a grand scandal captioned “The Missing Millions at the Gambian Embassy in Washington, DC ” and despite numerous clandestine appeals and promises of rewards, we rose above the fray and exposed the bandits. Thank God, Ebrima J. T. Kujabi (a.k.a. the Bulldozer) a failed disc jockey who shamelessly lied on his resume to the State Department that he was a St. Augustine’s High School Sixth Form graduate when no one could even validate his Middle School graduation and his associates, some described at the time as Hammers for their perceived political lethality; mere square pegs in round holes; who thought Yaya Jammeh owned The Gambia and they were merely overseers; were recalled but despite that, the mediocrity remains relentlessly pervasive as evident in their replacements— enter Messrs. Hamba Manneh and Pierre Minteh; a duo who could have hardly completed the 12th Grade; one is Counselor and the other-Minteh, until his sacking last week, was Deputy Chief of Mission at one of The Gambia’s most important diplomatic missions—Washington, DC, the District Capital of the United States of America.
Significantly, like J. T. Kajabi et alia who preceded them, Manneh and Minteh are a tandem of diplomatic chaos; little in learning, little in education, little in politics, little in virtually everything except in exalting His Excellency, Yaya Abdul Aziz Jamus Junkung Jammeh’s false greatness, to paraphrase the 19th Century English historian and scholar, T. B. Macaulay.
Curiously, a friend at the U. S. State Department with close affinity to The Gambia had once asked me why President Jammeh continuously sends high school dropouts to represent his government in Washington, DC. I quickly answered: “To do his dirty work ”. Perhaps the most embarrassing moment was when a former American envoy told me that “Jammeh had bestowed me with numerous National Honours that are gathering dust near my fireplace because they have no value whatsoever to me.” Statements like this are a reflection of poor foreign policy performance/judgement and we hope, Adama Barrow and his new government will learn from some of these ominous messages and start respecting and valuing our national honours for not a single Gambian leader was once honored at the White House with any US national medals. In like manner, Gambian leaders must hold dear their national emblems and symbols as sacred monuments that define their proud heritage; a heritage that transcends millennia of our existence and struggles for self-determination.
While we expect no magic solutions to our numerous problems, if Gambia is to be and the hopes expressed by our people on December 1, 2016 are to bear fruition, Adama Barrow must be a good listener. For while Ousainou Darboe is Gambia’s Chief diplomat, at the end of the day, Adama Barrow is President of The Republic of The Gambia in every sense and facet of the words therein and like Sir Dawda Jawara and Yaya Jammeh before him, he too, must ultimately be accountable to the Gambian people who have the power to vote in and vote out leaders they choose and those who defy their instructions respectively. PPP era politics and Yaya Jammeh era byforcecracy (my own creation) are eternally buried in the womb of history and make no mistake, our people have seen the light.
From the chaos and decadence in The Gambia’s Washington, DC Mission let us fly some 3,662 miles across the mighty Atlantic and land in close proximity to the mythological Thames River where civilizations have criss-crossed and cross-fertilized for centuries. Our destination is 92 Ledbury Road, Notting Hill, London, where The Gambia’s UK Embassy is nestled. If Gambia’s Washington DC mission is chaos Kunda then the London Mission remains a cataclysm that struggles to recover without success from the diplomatic debacle involving the former president’s quasi-schooled uncle, Yusupha Bojang, and several others now languishing in British prisons; mere simpletons appointed to diplomatic positions purely on the basis of nepotism and or tribalism.
Exactly two years ago, Deputy Ambassador Bojang and several other diplomatic hands and concubines one must add; especially, considering Yaya Jammeh’s salaciousness, who like Kujabi, Manneh and Minteh in Washington were beneficiaries of a nepotic, kleptocratic tribal cabal that made them diplomats overnight and with their diplomatic passports, the gang in London wasted no time in showing their true credentials; a bunch of unscrupulous rascals who abused and misused the diplomatic tax exemptions accorded them by transforming the mission to a secret tobacco and liquor league. Instead of taking care of citizens’ immigration problems, Deputy Ambassador Bojang who before his London mission was a career courier at a local brewery, busied himself with stockpiling containers of tobacco and liquor drums that fetched him and his accomplishes thousands of UK Pound Sterling way above their salaries. In the end, we had tobacco and liquor diplomats and all else, was consigned to insignificant Gambian matters.
Thus when the embassy’s tax scandal finally ended in a shameful trial before London’s Crowns Courts, several Jammeh lieutenants among them his uncle, were sent to jail and are now serving various sentences after which they will all be deported to Banjul especially, now that the tyrant has himself proceeded on exile in Equatorial Guinea.
The lessons from both Washington and London could not be clearer! Stop appointing relatives, party loyalists, tribesmen and tribeswoman without the requisite educational qualifications to run diplomatic positions. The nefarious activities of the London gang bear witness to a nasty scheme in which competence was compromised in favour of nepotism. Otherwise, who in his right mind employs Yusupha Bojang, Pierre Minteh, J. T. Kujabi to name only a few, as Deputy Heads of Missions in London and Washington respectively with all the competent candidates in the administrative cadre in Banjul and elsewhere?
Like the provebial teaching of one’s grandmother of how to suckle eggs, with this editorial, The Gambia Echo hopes that President Adama Barrow through Lawyer A. N. M. Ousainou Darboe as our new Chief diplomat, will not only immediately begin fixing The Gambia’s decadent and wanting Foreign Service structure but in so doing, will skilfully navigate the complexities and diplomatic nuances that define a competent diplomatic structure. We hope it will not be business as usual where failed, corrupt and incompetent politicians and party surrogates lacking in qualification, lacking in experience and bereft of competence are jettisoned to foreign missions where they remain square pegs in rounds holes. The world has changed significantly and if The Gambia is to symbolise that proverbial golden finger she has to necessarily act like a modern state ready to assume its rightful place on the world stage.