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A friend sorely missed

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Ambassador Alieu Kebba Jammeh, ORG (1972-2023) Technocrat, cabinet minister and diplomat

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By Hassoum Ceesay, Historian

I mourn with the rest of the country the sudden demise of my friend, Alieu K Jammeh, who died on Thursday, 11 May 2023 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he was serving as high commissioner, also accredited to Ivory Coast and Liberia. He was also a technocrat, cabinet minister and amateur historian with a solid educational background.

His education took shape at Armitage High School where he graduated in 1990, and following his sixth form studies, he proceeded to Uganda, then Malaysia and the UK where he bagged several degrees from 1994 to 2003. He returned home and worked in the civil society, then the civil service rising to the post of permanent secretary in 2010. Indeed, he was already a professional even before he had need of a razor!  In 2012, he was appointed to cabinet as minister of youths and sport, where he spent five years. Under Yahya AJJ Jammeh, five years in cabinet must be a result of extreme good luck or extreme efficiency. Alieu was efficient and modest. Under his tenure, he revived the youth training schemes and introduced the Songhay Project at Chamen in the North Bank Region.

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Like many ministers in the last Jammeh cabinet, he was forced into brief exile while the former dictator presided over a political impasse which lasted 40 days from December 7 2016, a week after he was voted out of office. He had just completed a memoire on his odyssey in the Jammeh cabinet during the impasse. I pray that his family unearth the manuscript from his laptop and print the book, which we had already edited.

When the despot fled, Alieu returned home and spent a year at the University of The Gambia as head of external relations. In late 2018, he was appointed ambassador to Guinea Bissau. He went into this new diplomatic calling with unparalleled zest. He realised the cultural and linguistic continuum that exists between the two countries, and started a cultural link between chiefs in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. In 2020, he brought to Banjul a powerful delegation of Bissau chiefs from Gabu, the former Kaabu, to visit their ilk in The Gambia.

Indeed, he was enamoured of chiefs and chieftaincy because he was a descendant of Mama Tamba Jammeh (1880-1988), the great chief of Illiassa, Member of Legislative Council, and master farmer. Alieu’s father, a son of Mama Tamba, was also chief from 1963, and also served as deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1972 to 1977.  In ways more than one, politics and leadership were in Alieu. In 2021, he was moved to our diplomatic mission in Freetown, one of our oldest in the world. There, he immersed himself into dutiful action. He managed to get our president to visit the three countries he was accredited to in a short period of two years. A few days before he died, he had welcome His Excellency President Barrow in Abidjan on an official visit. Such was his style of hard work and action.

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Despite his busy schedule, he found time to assist me to write the biography of Mama Tamba Jammeh. He funded the entire research and printing and launch of the book we co-authored titled A Legend: Seyfo Mama Tamba Jammeh (Baobab Printers, 2023). He presided over its launching in late January, 2023, amidst the fanfare always associated with Tamba Jammeh.

To the end of his days, Alieu was deeply conscious of his responsibility, and was intensely interested in the things of the moment, in himself and in all sectors. He died a good servant of our republic, which is why his death is the sore disappointment of the state and our community.

He was my good friend and mate, which is why I attest that the fever of doing and achieving were in his DNA. He was  a man of breath of vision and unflagging zeal. He had enthusiasm, inspiration, intelligence and affection.

I convey my sincere condolences to his family and pray that his soul rest in perfect peace.

(Ambassador Alieu Kebba Jammeh, ORG, Technocrat, Cabinet Minister and Diplomat born 1972, died Freetown, Sierra Leone, May 11, 2023).

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