Saturday, April 15, 2017

President Barrow's "friendly visit" to Congo Brazzaville was ill-advised

President Adama Barrow 
The press release from the Office of The President to local news outlets and the online press operated by diaspora Gambians informed the general public that President Barrow "will travel to Congo Brazzaville on a two day friendly visit."

Neither the purpose of the trip nor the composition of the delegation accompanying the newly-minted Gambian leader was stated in the release.

All we know of and about the presidential visit came from pro-government local media and state-controlled television.

According to these sources, President Barrow held a tete-a-tete with the Congolese dictator, Denis Sassou Nguesso, last night upon arrival from Banjul.

The visit, according to local reports, took place within the context of strengthening relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.  "The climax of the visit" according to local reporting, "was the tete-a-tete between the two Heads of State at the Presidency during which they discussed bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest."

Congolese state television also reported that the two leaders also reaffirm their commitment to the African Union's Agenda 2063, regional integration and the fight against terrorism.  President Barrow reportedly used the meeting to "commend President Sassou for his mediation role in various African crises and also in his role in fostering national reconciliation."

The presidential delegation left the Radisson Blu Hotel at noon local time for the airport, presumably headed for Banjul.  Unless he has another destination on his travel itinerary, he should arrive in Banjul today, Saturday instead of Sunday as originally planned.  plans to stop somewhere else

Our sources in Banjul are telling us that President Barrow was not accompanied by his Foreign Minister - Ousainou Darboe - who is home engaged in the observance of the one year anniversary of the death of Solo Sandeng and activities related to it.

Congolese have suffered at the hands of Denis Sassou Nguesso - a dictator and a rogue who has been in office since 1979 for all but five years by manipulating his constitution a couple of years ago to make it possible for him to run for a third consecutive term of office.  His politics is dirty and his human rights record, appalling.  Who advised President Barrow to do this?    

President Barrow's delegation, according to sources, comprised of an adviser to President Barrow, the Chief of Protocol and another protocol officer, permanent secretary in the Office of the President and the Director of Press and Public Relations.  Sources also reported that President Barrow was not accompanied by any Minister or senior official of note - another unusual development.

As we noted in our Facebook page, this trip has left many citizens and friends of the Gambia puzzled, bewildered and completely at a loss for many reasons, the least of which is President Barrow's preferred choice of country to visit with no strong geopolitical ties worth ditching Presidents Buhari, Johnson-Sirleaf, Akufo-Addo, Ouatarra, Koroma to name a few in favor of Denis Sassou Nguesso, of all people.  The message of the trip can be summed up as follows : President Barrow is ready to ditch Gambia's traditional friends, including those who came to the country's aid in its hour of need, for perhaps an agenda of his own.

The fact that the Minister responsible for Gambia's foreign relations appears not to have been involved in neither the planning nor the execution of the trip only adds to its bizarre nature which is equally troubling and a dangerous precedence, given the nature of the government currently in place.

Gambia fought a very brutal dictatorship for 22 years tp victory.  Many Gambians lost their lives as well as their livelihood in the process.  Others have been extra-judicially executed, raped, tortured and journalists assassinated and made to disappear without trace to this day.  The luckiest of the lot were forced to flee their homeland in their ten of thousands, many still living refugee lives in Senegal, Europe, United States and around the globe.  We will not sit idly by while we watch our country hijacked for the second by unsavory characters and fly-by-night operators.  We will not let it happen this time around.