By: Basidia M Drammeh
In a rare press briefing with the local journalists, Gambia’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Momodou Tangara, characterized the diplomatic scandal involving several Gambian diplomats in Washington as “not very serious” within the Gambian context. The nation’s top diplomat was painstakingly trying to put a spin on the US decision to expel three top Gambian diplomats at the country’s embassy in Washington, including the deputy head of mission, over a fraudulent visa regime.
“The Gambia has not lost its credibility in the international arena,” the minister told the journalists whom he accused of blowing the issue out of its normal proportions. He further noted that some diplomats would try to help relatives with visas without knowing the implications.
The minister’s statement was roundly condemned as a failure to take the bull by the horns. Under his watch, Gambia’s foreign service has been reduced to a dumpsite for inefficient loyalists and incompetent political allies, most of whom have no clue about the complexities of international relations and the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which outlines the rules of diplomatic law.
As a seasoned diplomat and a prominent academic, Tangara should insist on sending competent civil servants to represent the Gambia overseas rather than serve as a yes-man to his boss. I agree with Gambia’s former foreign minister and a respected senior diplomat Dr. Mohammad Lamin Sedat Job, who suggested, during a recent show on Kerr Fatou, that he believes Tangara prefers to remain silent on the issue of sending incompetent foreign representatives to save his job.
Mr. Tangara must realize that Gambia’s international standing is at stake and that his comments did not help a funny situation in which Gambia found himself.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must accelerate efforts to revamp foreign service policies to ensure that only well-trained, seasoned career diplomats represent the Gambia abroad. Short solutions to this diplomatic debacle include Intensive training programs for diplomats and weeding out political appointees who lack the qualifications for the job. Otherwise, we should brace ourselves for more scandals to come.