By Tabora Bojang
The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad has yesterday told the National Assembly that there is a number of policy proposals and blueprints to reform and enhance Gambia’s diplomatic and foreign service.
These measures emerged at a time the government is under intense criticisms following the expulsion of three diplomatic staff at the Gambian Embassy in the US for their alleged involvement in fraud, prompting calls for the government to revive and reimage its foreign policy and diplomacy.
Critics also accused President Barrow of turning Gambia’s diplomatic missions into a dumping ground to reward his political allies.
Appearing before the National Assembly standing committee on foreign affairs, Lang Yabou informed deputies that diplomacy and foreign policy has evolved since the development of some of the existing frameworks established for the conduct of Gambia’s diplomacy and foreign policy, arguing there is the need for new frameworks to meet the demand of Gambia’s foreign policy.
He said in developing these policies the government will seek inputs from all Gambians at home and abroad, the UN systems and selected countries in Africa which have technical capacity and established structures of foreign services to learn from them.
Foreign service rules
According to him, these new frameworks include the revival of the existing Foreign Service Rules which has been in existence for two decades.
The PS said the new Foreign Service Rules will make provisions that will enhance the service conditions and welfare of Gambia’s diplomatic staff in and outside the country.
“This Foreign Service Rules document will be put before cabinet for approval before the end of the year. And whatever we are going to put there is for the best interest of the country. We need to look into the welfare of our diplomatic staff wherever they are. We realise that there are gaps in the current service regulations because it does not have a provision as to what happens when somebody dies abroad while under service. So, this will allow us to address some of those and to add value to what is already existing,” Ambassador Yabou stated.
He government will also develop it’s first posting policy for diplomatic and foreign missions. According to him the policy document is at an advanced stage and will soon be put for cabinet approval and subject to a final review by a consultant. The posting policy, he explained will provide frameworks for “rational deployment and rotation of officers within the foreign services.”
Foreign Service bill
This bill, according to the PS, is currently being drafted after which it will be taken to cabinet and subsequently the National Assembly for approval. He explained that the bill will provide a law for the establishment, management, administration, accountability and functioning of a professionally oriented foreign service.
He saidhe document will also feature the organisational structure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, provide conditions for the establishment of Gambian missions abroad, staffing and conditions of service.
Scheme of service
PS Yabou, who served as the permanent representative of The Gambia to the UN, also informed deputies about the introduction of a new scheme of service which he said is completed and approved by the Public Service Commission and will among other things determine the duties and functions of each position and title at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The document is submitted to all Gambian foreign missions for notice and retention,” he said.
Foreign Service strategy
He said as part of the reforms, a Foreign Service strategy is beendeveloped to “enable the Ministry to contribute to the development of the Gambia” in the medium and long term. “This will provide a vehicle through which the ministry will align its activities to the National Development Plan NDP,” said PS Yabou. He said the strategy is also set to be finalised soon.
Foreign service manual
PS Yabou disclosed that the foreign service manual which will provide the country’s foreign missions the edge they need to move forward is already earmarked for in the next year’s budget. He said the manual will require the expertise of a consultant to help develop it.
He said ministry also planned to introduce a new diaspora strategy. PS Yabou stated that this policy is already finalised and only waiting for adoption.