Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang Former Vice President of The Gambia Part 3


By Omar Wally Omar Wally: Let’s talk about your personal safety. In the run-up to the election, weren’t you worried about your safety given your activities galvanising the Coalition 2016, to kick Jammeh out of power? I’m a woman, and they say women fear but I don’t fear. I’m convinced that it was a divine mission and God was with me at every moment. Were you not directly threatened? I was not threatened to speak the truth. I was between prisons to visit Ousainu Darboe, UDP and other members that were incarcerated. I was in hospital, in court every day and always opposite Gambia High School and I’m the creator of those dangerous banners, saying ‘Down With Dictator’, ‘Jammeh Stop The Torture And Rapes And Killings’. I was there and I was seeing sometimes NIA cruising around the area going up and down. Did the NIA go to your house? Sometimes they will cross the street here and from time to time I will see them around the shop opposite my house. I will greet them, they may be monitoring me but none of them ever threatened me. And I went to Mansakonko to witness the UDP April 14 people’s trial. When you believe in God, and for me I strongly believe it is a divine mission. When you read my book coming in the future, you will see that I have gone to so many corners without any fear. My daughter lives on the other side of Kotu and sometimes at 2am I will walk her from my house where I live alone. And I’m not taking credit for this, I give the credit to God Almighty who gave me the mission and stood by me. That alone for me is sufficient. If I don’t become any other thing in this country, the fact that I have been part and parcel of liberating this country is something that really makes me happy. It was said that you wrote a letter to the UN in which you addressed yourself as Acting President and it was intercepted. Is that true? No, I never wrote a letter to the UN. That is not true and if you ask the president he will tell you it’s not true. It was misleading information that I wrote a letter to the UN. What happened is that there was a Gambian who applied not to the UN but the UN Environment Programme and he wrote to President Barrow while he was away for the government to support his candidature. That is normal. I’m a champion of helping Gambian young people who are looking for positions outside because not everyone can come and work in the public sector. I have always advised the president every time we have the opportunity that we should support that because that is what other countries are doing. Before supporting other countries, let us support our children. The letter came and I wrote a letter and a very nice recommendation. I don’t know the gentleman or his family. All I did was out of my responsibility acting for the Office of the President and signed the letter as acting president. I signed the letter and sent it to the UN Mission in New York and the present Foreign Minister, Mamadou Tangara did not submit that letter to UNEP. What he did from his own word was he wrote a note verbale and submitted the candidature of the gentleman. I did not know if he got the position or not but this is the letter they are talking about. I never wrote to the UN about anything. It was a recommendation letter for a Gambian who is credible and competent but the letter never went to the UN. So I leave that to Allah and I know some day God will exonerate me. But is it proper for you to refer to yourself as acting president in that letter? I was acting and the president was out of the country. So that is normal? Yes, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I looked at the Constitution and there is nothing in the Constitution like that. And indeed as people claim that I was ambitious and undermining President Barrow. They can give the president any information but he knows that I will never undermine him. He knows I’m a loyal and God-fearing person. I worked with him with a clean slate and I know that whatever he, the president, must have been told, is false. What they told him was inaccurate and out of political ambition of certain people in this country but I leave that to their conscience. Did you suspect or were you given a reason on why you were sacked? They didn’t tell me. The letter didn’t tell me the reason for being removed. What is the relationship between you and Gambians in diaspora? I have a good relationship with them. When it is time to talk about issues, if they interview me, I tell them what I have in mind. And sometimes I would call and advise. I’m not a Facebook fan but my children are on Facebook and some other people also are on Facebook and when they tell me some of the things that are happening that shouldn’t happen, like political supporters insulting other leaders including the president, I call and tell them that is not right. We need to be discipline and look at how our elders are. Your mother’s friend is your mother, and your community is your family. I also advise them to be careful that these are worldly affairs and we are going to leave politics and go to our graves. So we need to respect each other. We can have political differences but we should be respectful and have discipline. Our focus should be how we move The Gambia as a peaceful and stable country. Even me I know they insult me especially during the vice presidency. A lot of insults were heaped on me but I’m praying for those who have insulted me, for God to guide them to the straight path that they will repent for insulting me. Some of them I don’t even know or have relationship with… I did not give myself the position of vice president; I didn’t claim to have the sense of entitlement to be vice president. The decisions that are made were made collectively in cabinet but I never feel any anger in me because it depends on the maturity, professionalism and upbringing of that person who insults me. If people didn’t have good upbringing, no sense of decency, focus and no professionalism, they can do anything. But fundamentally, no person can escape criticism. Our prophet, the best of men, did not escape, who I am as an ordinary servant of God to escape? Sometimes I even say that what they are saying against me, some criticism when they are constructive I learn from them and improve because I’m a learner. As the architect of Coalition 2016, many said it dead, do you agree? It is not dead; it is alive. But there is disunity in the coalition? Some coalition ministers have been removed from the cabinet. I will say that the coalition is weak… It is new to us and it is a learning process… The coalition, I admit, is weak and it needs to strengthen itself to rekindle the confidence and the trust that the people of The Gambia have in it as well as the partners. We are going to strengthen it and bring ourselves together because I see that there is no one in the coalition who has rejected the spirit and the letter of the coalition. What is your opinion on current political misunderstanding between the UDP and the Barrow Youth for National Development? This is something we want to discuss in-house. It is important that we come together as a family, discuss and reach a common understanding and then we can move forward. It is not wrong to disagree. In life, we disagree and agree. I’m very hopeful that the coalition intercedes and brings the stakeholders together and then there will be peace and harmony. That is my strong conviction. At the end of the day, what is the common objective or goal of all these parties is to see a better Gambia and a better Gambia cannot be built by one person, it has be built by everybody. Let us all try to embrace the reform agenda and have a successful Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have the constitutional review and economic reforms, social cohesion, et cetera. What next for you? My objective is to help the coalition, dedicate myself to strengthen the coalition. It is going to be a formidable task but I’m ready for it and whatever it takes I know lot of challenges ahead. I know that the members of the coalition are committed to the cause so it is best to embrace it so that Gambian people will continue to trust and invest everything they have. People saw me at UDP congress and I have a very close sister of mine insinuating that since I was with them in Fass Njaga Choi and she saw me at the congress, she insinuated that I should officially go the podium and stay with the executive. Who is she? She is a sister and I was surprised that she asked me that question. I think she should have known me better but I told her that I’m a national leader, co-chair of the coalition and I will go to all congresses. Was it Aji Yamou Secka? No. She is not in The Gambia… There is low level of female participation in politics aren’t you going to form a political party to inspire young ones? You don’t need to form a party to empower young people. I have been doing a lot of work. You can empower people without a party, there are many ways. I do a lot of coaching young women, looking at their professional, academic and experience background and encouraging them to go in to politics. Look at the UDP now, they have 30 per cent of women on board. I’m encouraging political parties to bring more women on board. Not only to bring them to clap and cook for them but to give them responsibilities so that they can empower them to come to mainstream politics. Who knows, someday one of political leaders could be a female candidate. I do one-to-one coaching and share my experiences with them and we never know, someday we can have a female presidential candidate. What will be your final message? You see the way I love The Gambia flag, it represents unity and I want us to continue to embrace our flag. I want us to look at what unites us than what divides. What divides us is subjective but what unites us is objective… I’m asking the executive to be patience, inclusive, remain focused because leadership is not easy. Sorry, just before you go, you were held hostage while working for the UN as gender and policy adviser in Liberia, share the story with us. It was post-war and I was visiting internally displaced camps and refugees. On that day, I was travelling upcountry and came to a bushy point somewhere you will never expect people. We saw people coming from different directions. You couldn’t recognise them, they were all in leaves like in guerrilla warfare. They asked me where we were going and I told them we were going to visit Cape Mount. They asked for the mission, I told them I was going to assess the situation of women and young girls. They were problems of rape and torture and to see how best we could increase the direct assistance. They asked, ‘What do you have for us?’ I said, ‘What do we have for you, in what sense?’ They said, old ma, we are hungry, we have been in the bush waiting for our rice and it has not come for the past three days. I told them I don’t have food. I have some money so I could give you that to buy rice. They said they were in the bush and that they don’t have shops. I asked them what they want me to do, they said I have to go back to town buy them food and bring it back to them. I had to stay. They didn’t feel comfortable to go with the driver, and they thought I wouldn’t come back. I stayed and they brought big boulders and they made me confortable. The driver went and I started engaging them that they should go out of the bush and go back and make peace for Liberia. They were young people and spent seven years of their life in the bush. To cut the story short, the driver went in town, bought some food and fortunately being a good hunter, he killed two antelopes and gave it to them and they escorted me up to the village. The end.]]>