It is now official. The much talked about purging of Gambia’s foreign service personnel has begun in earnest. The Gambian government says it will not renew the contracts of five Ambassadors, who are currently representing the country in the Foreign Service, Freedom Newspaper report. “ What we can ascertain as at now, is that five Ambassadors representing The Gambia abroad will not be able to have their contracts renewed; and they are: His Excellency, Mr. Kemesseng Jammeh, Gambia’s Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, Mrs. Jainaba Bah, Gambia’s Ambassador to Russia, Dr. Sedat Jobe, Gambia’s Ambassador to France, Abdoulie Bojang, Gambia’s Ambassador to South Africa, and Faye Ceesay, Gambia’s Ambassador to China,” Saikou Ceesay, Media and Communication Officer at Gambia’s Foreign Ministry told Freedom Newspaper.
Ceesay was speaking in an interview with this medium over the weekend. He was contacted to shed light on the recent Freedom Newspaper publication about the massive recalling of Gambia’s foreign service personnel. Some of the diplomats were informed that their two-year contracts had either expired or were about to expire.
“The five Ambassadors I mentioned will not have their contracts renewed by the government. That I can confirm to you,” Ceesay said, adding that The Gambian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom Francis Blain, had been granted one-year contract extension by the government.
A political fallout between President Adama Barrow and his former Vice President Ousainou Darboe, a man, Barrow, had often referred to as his political Godfather, has resulted into a major Foreign Service purging. This followed, Barrow’s declaration that anyone government worker, who do not share his government’s agenda, would be shown the exit door.
Dr. Sedat Jobe, Gambia’s Ambassador to France
Barrow recently told his supporters that the year 2019, would be all about one being in or out of his government. He warns that he wouldn’t hesitate to drop off passengers from his bus, who are bent on pursuing other agendas, that are opposed to the government’s set agenda for The Gambia.
Both Barrow and Darboe used to be in the same political party. Barrow had to resign from the United Democratic Party to lead a group of opposition parties in the 2016 elections, which propelled him into the Presidency.
Mr. Kemesseng Jammeh, Gambia’s Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey
Now the firing of Darboe and the UDP ministers from Barrow’s cabinet, had change the political trajectory in Banjul. Communication officer Saikou Ceesay says the move taken by the government not to renew the contracts of the affected Foreign Service personnel, was not a witch hunt.
“What I can tell you with high degree of certainty is that this is a move geared towards ensuring that the targets set for the government in achieving economic diplomacy, increased foreign investment, and also increased tourism promotion among other things be attained. It is all geared towards ensuring efficiency in the delivery of foreign service,” Ceesay remarked.
Faye Ceesay, Gambia’s Ambassador to China
The UDP forms the majority in Barrow’s led Coalition government. The party has over 31 MPS in parliament; and it controls the Mayoral offices in Banjul and the Kanifing Municipality.
The UDP also controls seven out of the eight administrative municipalities in The Gambia.
But President Barrow recently told his supporters that without his Presidency, there was no way that the UDP, could have won the Mayoral seats in Banjul and KMC. He also talked about past monetary support he had extended to the party.
Abdoulie Bojang, Gambia’s Ambassador to South Africa
Ebrima Dibba, used to be the Protocol and Welfare Officer at The Gambian Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, until he was fired recently. Dibba is a long-time member of the United Democratic Party. He was accused by the government of meddling into politics, following the sacking of his party leader former Vice President Ousainou Darboe.
“You cannot fire about seven people, that is very irresponsible. You cannot recall almost seven Ambassadors; that is going to cost the government millions, millions, and millions. For what? Because of your ego; because of your political differences with them; and they are serving accordingly; less than two years, why can’t you give them a chance,” Dibba said.
Dibba added that the likes of Kemesseng Jammeh, haven’t done anything wrong to warrant their removal. Dibba also alleges that the UDP became a victim of Barrow’s government, following the party’s refusal to support Barrow to consolidate himself into power.
“He wants us to support his second term agenda. As a party, we have our party policy and principles. We are not going to support an individual agenda. We will promote national agenda,” Dibba posited.
Ebrima G Sankareh is the Spokesperson for The Gambian government. Sankareh has rebuffed claims made in some quarters that the UDP, and its officials serving in Gambia’s Foreign Service were being witch hunted by the Barrow government.
“For anyone to suggest that it is a witch hunt, well, really it could be misconstrued; because people who were given letters of contracts and the contracts are ended. They have been asked to come home because the contracts had ended, I don’t know how that could tantamount to political witch hunt. But again, I don’t have the answers to all the questions; let the people speak their mind,” Sankareh remarked.
Sankareh said some of the diplomats, who were written to by the government, were above the required age limit for retirement. He says the retirement age for The Gambian worker was sixty years, but some of the hired diplomats were in their late sixties and seventies.
He added that the appointments were made in the aftermath of Gambia’s month-long political impasse back in 2017. Former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh had refused to relinquish power at the time. He later had to leave office amid a pressure from the West Africa bloc ECOWAS.
“Majority of them, you can recognize are in their late sixties; some are in their mid-seventies. In The Gambia, the retirement age is sixty years. Naturally, there are Ambassadors, who are career diplomats. There are Ambassadors, who are also politically appointed or who were politically appointed. That majority of these people, actually at the time of appointment knew very well that they had a contract and the contract was going to expire in two years. The expiration of those two years and is what we have seen. And these letters are letters that are reminding them that the contracts that they had signed with the government of The Gambia is expired and therefore as diplomats they are supposed to come home; and then have conversation or dialogue with the person who gave them the contract,” Government Spokesman Sankareh intimated.
Sankareh also said that The Gambian government has the prerogative to renew or not to renew the two-year contracts that were signed by the diplomats.
“This is very similar to what happened in America; a person, who wants an apartment would sign a lease agreement; so when the lease agreement expires, the lessee go back to the lessor; the apartment owner and they would bargain if they want to continue doing business or whether the tenant wants to go to a new apartment. This is just an analogy I am using to help people rationalize why all these letters are coming all of a sudden,” he said.
Sankareh says not every diplomat, who has been written will not have his contract renewed. He says some might have their contracts renewed while others might not.
The Gambian Ambassador to Ankara, Turkey, Kemesseng Jammeh, was contacted for comment, but he declined to grant any interviews at this time. Though, he has confirmed that he received a letter from his employer, who informed him that his contract was due to expire on May 15th, 2019.