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The Gambia’s Foreign Policy On The Brink?

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Demba Ali Jawo, Former Minister of Communications and Information Technology

By D. A. Jawo

The Gambia’s foreign policy is getting more and more discredited, thanks to a large measure on the calibre of people posted to our diplomatic missions.

Recently, our foreign missions have been rocked by a series of scandals, the latest being the alleged altercation between our ambassador in Cuba and his deputy, leading to both of them being recalled, apparently for disciplinary purposes.
We have also heard about some financial scandal allegedly involving one of our diplomats in Mauritania. Before that, we also heard about problems in our other diplomatic missions including the recall of four diplomats from our Washington embassy who were accused of involvement in visa fraud and other misdemeanors and declared as persona non grata by the US government.
A few years ago, we also heard about another physical altercation between one of our former ambassadors in Morocco and one of his staff, leading to their recall.

What is responsible for these series of embarrassing scandals involving our foreign diplomats? Is it a norm in diplomatic circles or has it got anything to do with their mode of appointment?
Whatever is the cause of such frequent scandals in our foreign missions, but certainly, their mode of appointment should be of concern to many Gambians. It appears that the most important qualification for someone to get posted to our foreign missions is loyalty to the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) more than any other qualification. There is now hardly any career diplomat in our foreign service but instead, more than 90 percent of them are either politicians who have either failed in their bid to get elected under an NPP ticket, had their brief-case political parties endorse President Barrow and got compensated with a diplomatic mission or failed to get re-appointed in the cabinet and they are then appointed as diplomats to man positions that they had virtually no idea of how to run. This is causing quite a lot of credibility issues in our foreign missions and the government needs to address those issues in order to restore some semblance of sanity in our foreign policy.

Of course, as head of state, the blame for making such appointments should go to President Adama Barrow, but the person who bears the greatest responsibility for such a dent in our foreign policy should be the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mamadou Tangara. As the custodian of our foreign policy, we should not expect him to accept any trash passed on to him, just for political expediency, and that is exactly what he seems to be doing by allowing these failed politicians to be imposed on him, eventually resulting in all these diplomatic embarrassments.
There is no doubt that Dr. Tangara is a seasoned diplomat who has a wealth of experience in foreign policy management, but he seems to allow himself to be used by President Barrow and his NPP to dump all those undesirable elements in his territory.

Therefore, as long as the right people are not put in the right places, our foreign missions will continue to be a source of embarrassment to this country.

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