By Omar Bah
In 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Dr Mamadou Tangara visited Equatorial Guinea and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo as a special envoy of President Adama Barrow.
The visit led to wild speculations with some suggesting that it was about former president Yahya Jammeh who is exiled at EG. Others even rumoured that he went to Guinea to discuss the possibility of having Jammeh extradited.
But in an exclusive interview, Minister Tangara told Kerr Fatou he visited Malabo as a special envoy of President Adama Barrow to strengthen ties between the two countries and it had nothing to do with former president Jammeh.
“You see, people are so powerful that you can dream and, another morning, another person would explain what you dreamt of. Sometimes I enjoy the speculations and the rumours knowing that I know the facts. I went to Equatorial Guinea as a special envoy and though I would not disclose here what I discussed there, but I can tell you frankly– we never discussed anything concerning the return of the former president as has been speculated. That’s not true. We didn’t meet with the former president,” he said.
Tangara said his meeting with Obiang was entirely based on bilateral relations and to seek the cooperation of Equatorial Guinea on certain matters.
“I also want to make this known to the public because some people think that there was a special bond between the president of Equatorial Guinea and the former president. That’s not true. I was the former foreign minister [during Jammeh’s time] I know very much who his friends were and those he was not pulling with. The president of Equatorial Guinea intervened and decided to have him in Equatorial Guinea only in the name of African solidarity but he has no vested interest in The Gambia. He only intervened to save the situation,” he added.
Tangara said President Obiang personally called Jammeh and told him not to fight because even if he did, he was going to lose or even if he won, the country would be destroyed.
“As far as I know, we don’t have any contact with the former president,” he said.
Asked whether the recent extension of Ecomig’s stay reflects government’s lapses in country’s security sector reform, Tangara replied: “Security is a very complex issue and we know the composition of our army; you cannot just lay off soldiers like that. If you do, then you are creating a group of potential criminals because these are people who are trained to use weapons. If you want to let them go, you have to find something for them and that you cannot do over night. It is not that we lack confidence in our security forces–we have very capable officers-but you all know also that we have some officers who for some reasons if you discuss about them in some quarters, they laugh at us,” he added.
The Minister also recalled how a Senegalese foreign minister had tried to secure a possible co-ownership of the Senegambia bridge during a commission meeting between the two countries.
“The issue of co-ownership of the Senegambia bridge was brought to the agenda and I told my colleague that was a non-starter. I told him I was not even going to discuss it. I asked him to remove it from the agenda because I cannot understand a bridge inside The Gambia being co-owned. Interestingly, when the minster reported back to then president Abdoulaye Wade and informed him that everything went well but unfortunately the bone of contention was the issue of the bridge. Wade told him the issue of co-owning a bridge inside Gambia was practically impossible because the bridge is inside The Gambia,” he recalled.