By: Famara Singhateh
The recent expulsion of three Gambian diplomats by the United States on allegations of visa fraud has sparked profound concerns and raised critical questions about the integrity of our diplomatic service. This incident casts a disquieting light on the disconcerting practice of appointing unsuitable political allies to diplomatic missions as a reward for their loyalty to the president.
The essence of diplomacy resides in the individuals who possess the requisite skills, qualifications, and unblemished character needed to represent their country diligently. However, the misuse of diplomatic positions for political gain gravely undermines the reputation and professionalism of our diplomatic service. Prior to the expulsion of our diplomats, it is expected that the United States would have pursued due process, including thorough investigation, diplomatic engagement, and presentation of evidence to initiate an internal investigation while expressing concerns and issuing necessary sanctions. Disturbingly, the Gambian authorities have displayed minimal response to these alleged violations, failing even to issue a public statement.
The reticence of Gambians to denounce the appointment of ill-suited individuals to diplomatic posts exacerbates the issue at hand. This silence perpetuates a culture of nepotism and corruption within our diplomatic circles, impeding the required steps for remediation. The alleged criminal conduct involving Gambian diplomats necessitates swift action and a united citizenry.
Historically, Gambians have struggled to coalesce in the face of such scandals. Issues that lose prominence in the media or affect only a limited segment of citizens tend to recede from collective memory over time. This lack of sustained vigilance enables wrongdoers to evade accountability, thus perpetuating their practices without repercussion.
The expulsion of our diplomats underscores the gravity of the visa fraud allegations and their potential to impact the relationship between our nation and the United States. To restore confidence in our diplomatic missions, ensure their continued effectiveness, and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law, immediate action is imperative. The Gambian government must initiate thorough investigations and undertake the necessary arrests, as warranted. By conducting open and transparent investigations, we exhibit our resolve to uphold the principles of justice, which constitute an integral foundation for fruitful diplomatic relations.
Furthermore, the role of the Gambia Police in this matter is of great concern. The urgency of prompt and independent action by the police cannot be overstated. They must assume the responsibility of taking charge, potentially making arrests, and conducting further investigations. The integrity of the Gambia Police Force hangs in the balance, and their actions or inaction will unequivocally communicate their dedication to upholding the law and ensuring justice.
The 1997 Constitution of The Gambia establishes the Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice as the principal legal adviser to the Government, with the right to appear in all courts in The Gambia. Section 72 (2) of the Constitution outlines the attorney general’s role in leading the process of holding alleged violators accountable. Thus, he should not find himself helpless in this situation. The Constitution tasks him and the Director of Public Prosecution with taking action. According to Section 85 of the Constitution, the Director of Public Prosecutions has the power, with the approval of the Attorney General, to initiate and conduct criminal proceedings against individuals who have committed an offense. Hence, Gambians expect the Attorney General to fulfil his constitutional duty by collaborating with the police and taking the necessary actions. Although the police and Ministry of Justice may lack the authority to determine appointments made by the Executive Power, they must nonetheless take action if a crime is being or has been perpetrated, without awaiting the approval of the president or the political system as dictated by the president.
Gambians can no longer afford a passive stance. It is incumbent upon us to demand greater accountability from our government and to hold those in positions of power responsible for their actions. The time has come to shatter the vicious cycle of corruption and nepotism that has plagued our diplomatic service, and to restore the integrity that should inherently characterize these positions. Unity among Gambians is paramount in this endeavor. Through collective denunciation of corruption and unwavering calls for transparency and accountability, we can ensure that our country is represented by individuals of impeccable moral fiber and professional acumen. This will not only redeem the international reputation of The Gambia but also convey to the world our unwavering resolve to oppose corruption and misconduct.
Now more than ever, it is crucial for our nation to seize this opportunity for introspection and immediate action. Let us forge ahead with determination, embracing the principles of unity, accountability, and justice. In doing so, we will restore faith in our diplomatic service and reaffirm our commitment to the international community as responsible global citizens.
Author: Barrister, Famara Singhateh , Head of West Africa Desk, A-LAW INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM, Antwerp, Belgium