By Lamin Cham
A senior government source has confirmed to The Standard that The Gambia, through the support of “powerful” Islamic African nations, has been given the all-clear to host the 2021 OIC summit following the decision to shift this year’s edition to Saudi Arabia.
According to our source, the hosting of the OIC summit “is not a small feat” and is rotational between continents. “The one scheduled for The Gambia this November was not just simply a Gambian event; it was also the turn of Africa.
And so when it became clear that the country may not be ready to host this major event, The Gambia Government went on a diplomatic onslaught particularly on the African continent to garner support from African members of the organisation to ensure that Africa, and The Gambia in this case, keep the hosting right for the 2021 summit. This was necessary because there was no automatic guarantee that Africa will get the next summit. Again it took some time to make headway because the top and most important African Muslim nations such as Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria et cetera, which are big players in the OIC, were all engrossed in some domestic security or political turmoil. But what is the best news is that The Gambia has been given the all-clear through the support of the African members of the organisation to host the one in 2021. [This could in fact] be sometime in early 2022 because instead of the end of the year, they can pick January in 2022,” our source said.
Asked why the government was not proactive in relaying the developments to Gambians, the source said: “Government would always come to the public once it was safe and secure. Remember even Senegal had to negotiate and postpone their turn five times before it was eventually held in 2008.”
On whether the accompanying benefits such as the infrastructure projects will remain, our source said the current mobilisation of funds “remains on course and if anything the postponement now means that those projects can now be implemented in the most effective manner free from pressure for time”. He predicted that a government statement on the whole matter will be available in the next day or two.
Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, Essa Bokar Sy, the public relations officer at the Gambia OIC secretariat maintained that his office had not received any official communication as to the postponement or cancellation of the 2019 Banjul summit.
Sy told The Standard: “As far as we are concerned, we are hired here to mobilise resources to implement projects and that is still on course. So until we have communications to the contrary, I think it will only be prudent for us to wait until there is something in that before we can say anything”.
Asked to comment on the widespread notion that the country may miss out on the projects and funds earmarked to accompany the summit”, Mr Sy said there is a difference between postponement and cancellation and what he understood from media reports was that it has been postponed, traded or surrendered. “I have not heard anywhere that it has been cancelled or that the country is going to lose out. There is nothing like The Gambia losing anything. People just tend to make themselves to be experts in everything. Senegal had to postpone their plan to host the OIC summit five times before it was eventually held in 2008,” Mr Sy said.
Further quizzed on the reports quoting foreign minister Tangara as having confirmed the postponement, Mr Sy said he is yet to hear directly from the minister and has not heard any sound bite of him with the confirmation.