By Omar Bah
Political and human rights activist, Pa Samba Jow, has advised Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara to resign over the visa scandal involving some Gambian diplomats in Washington DC, United States.
Few weeks ago, four top diplomats at the Gambian embassy in Washington were expelled from the United States for different offences, including visa fraud.
Reacting to the development in a press conference on Monday, Minister Tangara said it is rather unfortunate, but is nothing very serious in a Gambian context.
But according to Pa Samba Jaw, the minister should have resigned.
“This is what is expected of officials under whose purview such scandal happens, but again, we are talking about The Gambia where impunity runs rampant. The Gambia cannot come out of this looking great, because this is an embarrassing stain on our diplomats, especially those in the US and the embassy. I don’t think any serious country would downplay its diplomats being accused of engaging in criminal activities,” he said.
He said the country mustn’t continue to condone and excuse behaviours that are inimical to its collective well-being.
“If anything, this scandal should serve as a reminder that we cannot continue to relegate our diplomatic services to a dumping ground for political friends.”
“I was really taken aback by the minister’s suggestion that though serious; it wasn’t a very serious matter. First, what is alleged against the expelled diplomats is at least criminal and the height of corruption and dereliction of duty. These diplomats weren’t accused of traffic violations, they were accused of visa fraud. If that is not too serious, I don’t know what is.”
Pa Samba said diplomats have a unique responsibility to represent the very best image of their people and country, therefore whatever they do must represent the very best of “our country”.
“The Minister’s analogy is akin to suggesting that if a family member asks you to dip into the nation’s coffers to help them, that may be serious but not too serious, because if you don’t help them, they may consider you wicked. The Gambia must raise our standards especially when it comes to values and ethics,” he said.
Commenting on the dismissal of some officials over the AKI deaths, Jaw said: “The decision by the Ministry of Health to fire officials due to the AKI incident is a welcomed move, but I hope that wasn’t done to placate the people, especially coming on the heels of the victims taking legal action against the government. I believe that there is more to this issue than the actions of these fired officials. Our healthcare system is chronically deficient – from management to service delivery, hence these avoidable deaths.”
Als commenting on the issue of the diplomats and the health ministry, UDP firebrand campaign manager, Momodou Sabally, said: “Well I am not surprised because I have said in several interviews before that when it comes to proper professional conduct and morality, this government has brought us to a new low. Moreover, I did also say at the advent of this saga that not much will come out of this matter because more senior officials at the foreign office are guilty of similar misconduct.”
He said the implications of the diplomats’ visa fraud will be “pervasively damaging”.
“It is one thing for junior embassy staff to break the rules of a major global power like the USA; but for a Foreign Minister to come out in public to try to downplay it, that is simply adding injury to insult and am sure the US and other diplomatic missions in The Gambia will take note of this. The moral hazard is just too huge when a foreign minister says it is okay for his diplomats posted abroad to be engaged in visa fraud. This one will damage whatever shred of credibility The Gambia is left with in the international community,” he argued.
About the AkI report, Sabally said: “I am not surprised because President Barrow has always stood up to defend the health minister and other top brass of the ministry whenever mishaps happen under their watch. At the very advent of this AKI crisis, President Barrow’s first statement included a declaration of confidence in the health minister and he even commended them for a great job despite the loss of dozens of babies due to negligence.
“The dismissal of the MCA CEO is just a reflection of the Dr Banja situation in which case, an equally culpable minister was retained and his deputy sacrificed. This is now an established trend confirming my longstanding characterisation of this administration as ‘Animal Farm’: all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others,” Sabally said.
He said the minister’s resignation is long overdue. “From his mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic and the related funds for which his ministry was indicted by an audit report, to the rampant maternal mortality cases, Samateh should have resigned a long time ago. Since he does not have that moral decency to resign, he should be fired. Senegal’s health minister was recently fired for a lesser offense of babies’ deaths due to a fire outbreak at a health facility,” Sabally concluded.