By Olimatou Coker
The mayor of Ostend City in Belgium, Bart Tommelien, his deputy Silke Beirens and delegation on Wednesday paid a courtesy call on the mayor of Banjul, Rohey Malick Lowe, at the BCC offices in Banjul.
Their discussions focused on various issues of mutual interest aimed at strengthening the relationship between the two cities of Banjul and Ostend, the ongoing EU project, visit to the EU project sites in order to give more visibility to the project and other issues.
Speaking during the visit, Mayor Lowe thanked the European Union for its continuous support and contribution to the work of the council, adding that the EU project is making a difference in Banjul.
‘’We are happy to welcome you Mayor Bart Tommelien, your deputy mayor Madame Silke Beirens and your delegation to the Banjul City Council,” she said.
‘’I am grateful and I have many men behind me. I am gender-sensitive but I am not feminist. If you look at my council almost 90% are men. I am happy that we have men that have a vision to push women forward. I don’t have many women in my Council because of the African mentality but I am grateful to them as they are doing well,” she explained.
She noted that it is more difficult to be a mayor than a president because they meet the people at the markets and in offices as well.
”I was a nominated councilor in Sweden and I understand the European concept of politics and indeed the African concept as well. My colleagues in Sweden are doing well and I always commend them for that. They have Africa at heart and they want to see us forward and want to see us like them. But the African politics is different because the Africans believe women should not be leaders but we should only be caretakers of our children,” she said.
Lowe further explained that when she was coming to office, she contested with eight candidates, of which seven were men.
“It was difficult for me because the discrimination, stereotyping and bullying was all there but I now understand the women in The Gambia want to change that belief and they have succeeded as many women are taking part in the parliamentary elections.”
Mayor Bart Tommelien said the European Union project will help in further strengthening the relationship between the cities, adding that all the mayors in Europe are looking at this project and the future is more important not the past.
”The city bond between Ostend and Banjul is truly unique. It is a great honor to see here as the first mayor of Ostend with my own eyes how big steps are being taken in terms of waste policy, city recycling, and digitalization. We want to continue to work together in the future,” he said.
Mayor Bart Tommelien was former Minister of Finance in Belgium.
Bart added that Ostend is one of the most important cities in Belgium, adding that it is very important to have a strong mayor with ambition to fight for the people.
“My Prime Minister was very sad when I left government. He told me that I should not leave because the government needs me. But my response to him was my city needs me more than the government,” he added.
He further vowed that he will support the candidacy of Mayor Lowe for the position of president in the upcoming elections of the Global Parliament of Mayors in Kenya.