Sunday, May 4, 2014

The deplorable state of Gambia's diplomatic missions

Deputy Ambassador Bojang with Head of Tourist Office, UK
It is generally agreed that the state of Gambian diplomacy is in shambles at best, and dysfunctional at worst.

The state of its missions abroad is in no better shape than its diplomacy which is to be expected. The state of your Embassy, physical location, general appearance and most importantly, the caliber of diplomats that staff the facility usually reflect the state of your diplomacy.

A government that withdraws its membership from the Commonwealth without a sensible reason except to attribute it to the spurious claim that the organization has done nothing for The Gambia and that is a colonial relic, cannot be considered as having neither a functioning foreign policy nor an effective diplomatic corp. Even the handful of trained professionals currently serving abroad cannot salvage a broken system brought on by the extreme form of dictatorship The Gambia is going through with Jammeh.  Almost all professional diplomats have left the service and The Gambia because of the incompetent and corrupt leadership of Yaya Jammeh.

The break-up of diplomatic relations with Taiwan illustrates the point of a dysfunctional and personalized form of diplomacy.  When the notification emanated from the Office of the President that caught everyone by surprise, it included the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Head of Gambia's diplomacy who learned about the decision after the Taiwanese Ambassador, but with the rest of the world in the news.

The state of the missions abroad are equally dysfunctional.  We did write about the Washington Embassy which is still without an Ambassador for almost two years, and how staff welfare has been neglected and the sick among them have been left to fend for themselves for lack of lack of health insurance coverage. Consequently, staff morale is low and it should not come as a surprise if some decide not to return to The Gambia when their tour is up or recalled as it is often the case.

The disposal of the Embassy building located on fashionable High Street Kensington only to move to a residential area of London was a sign of things to come because the formally Gambia High Commission, now Gambia Embassy in the U.K. is presently caught up in a scandal involving allegations of trafficking in duty-free contraband, involving the Deputy Ambassador, the Head of the Tourist promotion Office and a protocol officer.

The fates of the three Gambian diplomats are still in doubt because of the uncertainty surrounding their current diplomatic status.  The British authorities did request the Jammeh regime to waive immunity of the diplomats concerned so that they could be tried in a British court, and if found guilty, sentenced and subsequently deported from British shores.  What we've been able to gather thus far is that Jammeh did throw his diplomats to the wolves by agreeing to the lifting of the diplomats' diplomatic immunities.   However, the defense claimed in court that (i) the "Waiver of Immunity" was illegally obtained, and (ii) the Waiver was not signed by the Designated Permanent Secretary.

This is a plausible outcome, especially where Yaya Jammeh is involved.  He probably instructed his Secretary General or one of his two Permanent Secretaries at the Office of the President to sign the waiver instead of the Authorizing Officer or Permanent Secretary 1 at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.  Rather than engage in yet another request to the regime for the proper signature, the British authorities would rather end the ordeal by expelling the officers outright and never to enter Britain again, and saving them the possibility of jail time.  Britain is as fed-up with Jammeh as the rest of the world.

Jammeh's other diplomatic posts are not faring any better.  Some Gambian diplomats from Rabat to New Delhi to Caracas are today sleeping in the dark because the regime did not pay their electricity bills or pay their salaries on time, exposing them to temptations that can only bring disgrace to The Gambia.  No wonder that standards have dropped so low that a cinema hall gatekeeper and ticket vendor can end up being Deputy Head of Mission.  Only in Yaya Jammeh's Gambia.