Essa Njie, Political Science Lecture, UTG
By Buba Gagigo
Essa Njie, a political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia, has called Foreign Minister Dr. Mamadou Tangara’s statement on the expulsion of Gambian diplomats from the United States a “diplomatic blunder.”
The United States expelled four Gambian diplomats earlier this month in response to allegations of visa fraud and other infractions. Gambian Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara downplayed the issue at a news conference on Monday, saying that it is not a serious matter in the Gambian context.
Essa Njie took exception to the Foreign Minister’s characterization of what happened.
“Dr. Tangara’s statement that the misconduct of Gambian diplomats in the United States of America is “not very serious” is another diplomatic blunder and just another source of embarrassment for the Gambia at the international stage. It is very unfortunate that since the expulsion of these Gambian diplomats from the US, the Gambia government, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, did not make any statement on the issue, which itself was unacceptable. ” Essa Njie told Kerr Fatou.
The political science lecturer explained that the 1961 and 1963 Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations and Consular Relations, respectively, set out clear guidelines for how diplomats should conduct themselves. He noted that while diplomats enjoy certain immunities, they can also be expelled or declared persona non grata if they violate these guidelines.
” So, for Minister Tangara to downplay the severity of these misconducts is an insult to Gambia’s standing in the international fora. As the foreign affairs minister, who is supposed to project a good image of the Gambia to the outside world, you cannot refer to such an embarrassment as “serious but not very serious”. He said.
Mr. Njie asserted that no responsible foreign minister or government would consider conduct that warrants the expulsion of diplomats to be “not very serious”.
“In fact, Tangara should have used that press conference as an opportunity to apologise to the United States government. So, his statement could anger them even more. It easily tells them that the Gambia government does not take the violation of US laws by Gambian diplomats very serious. The attitude of some of our diplomats of recent is unbecoming of diplomats,” he continued.
Njie asserted that Tangara’s claim that the Gambia has attracted a good reputation on the international stage is ironic, given the country’s recent history of diplomatic challenges.
“Instead of the democratic gains, the minister should speak on how strategic the Gambia’s foreign policy is and, of course, the tangible social-economic benefits the country’s foreign policy has brought to Gambians, both home and abroad. In the past decade, some Gambian diplomats have brought shame and reputation damage to the country. In 2014, under the Jammeh era, our diplomats in the United Kingdom were involved in Tobacco sales.
“Sometime last year or so, a Gambian diplomat in Moscow was involved in a sex scandal, only for President Barrow to reward the man with a permanent Secretary post. Just last week, we saw accusations of our Ambassador in Turkey not taking responsibility. Whatever that means should be a concern to us,” he continued.
The UTG Political Science Lecturer said that under Tangara’s leadership, the Gambia’s foreign service has become a dumping ground for politicians who have been rejected by the electorate. He likened it to a “political compensation ground” where politicians are rewarded with diplomatic posts regardless of their qualifications or experience.