By Alagie Manneh
In the wake of the recent expulsion of four diplomats in the Gambian embassy at Washington, Foreign Affairs Minister Mamadou Tangara has insisted that the country’s diplomatic credibility still remains intact and unaffected by the scandal.
Almost a fortnight ago, four top diplomats in the Gambian embassy in Washington were expelled from the United States for different offences, including visa fraud. The US State Department asked them to leave by July 17.
Many observers believe the scandal will stain The Gambia’s image and credibility in international diplomatic circles but Minister Tangara maintained that no credibility has been lost that needed to be regained.
“I don’t think that Gambia has lost its credibility in the international arena. I think you are exaggerating a little bit,” he said in response to a question from The Standard. “Today, more than ever before, The Gambia is well-respected. The issue of our diplomats in Washington is rather unfortunate. I am not holding briefs for anyone – but as far as I know from what we received, there’s nothing very serious. It is serious though, but not very serious in a Gambian context. Imagine, you were posted in Europe or America, you have relatives who would tell you ‘Help me take people, my brother.’ Because they think it’s easy, but it’s not like that. Sometimes, people innocently will do it without knowing the implications,” he told journalists at the foreign affairs ministry yesterday.
Tangara said the lesson for all Gambian diplomats is to resolve issues within the confines of diplomatic service rules.
“Some of these things, we were not even aware. It means that someone somewhere is also talking too much. So, we have to be very careful of that. But the scandal has not created any reputational damage. They gave us a timeline to evacuate them and we are doing that. They’ve even decided to extend that to enable them to come back because these are family men,” the minister stated.
He called the scandal “an opportunity for The Gambia to do more sensitisation with our diplomats before we send them on missions”.
Asked what will be the fate of the expelled diplomats, Tangara said: “Well, you cannot jump into conclusions and say that we are going to do X, Y and Z. You have to go to the bottom of things to know exactly what happened. In fact, even before they sentenced you, I think you go through a trial. So, we need to know exactly what happened and then take the necessary measures.”
In the media briefing that lasted more than an hour interspersed with question-and-answer sessions, the minister also gave a timeline of his ministry’s interventions and activities, particularly on migration and Gambians abroad.
Interior minister Seyaka Sonko was also present, and answered several questions.