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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Mission to Moscow Part 1

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By H.E. Ambassador Jainaba Bah

All thanks and praises belong to Allah, Lord of the Universe. It was HIS (SWT) decree that I would be an ambassador to the Russian Federation for the period it lasted. Not a second more or a second less, all measured. I am grateful, I am thankful for the experience. Allhamdulillah Rabil Aalamiin!

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“Tirelessly advocating for human rights, Anderson pushed against expectations set by society and the media and in the process demonstrated that diplomacy’s requisite skills—intelligence, poise, determination—are held by women and men alike” (Mrs. Ambassador: The Life and Politics of Eugenie Anderson (the first woman appointed Head of Mission at the Ambassador level in US history) – written by Mary Dupont.)

In the second week of May, 2017 as Muslims around the globe braced themselves for the month of Ramadan, I received a call from the Gambian Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation & Gambians Abroad, the Honourable Lawyer Ousainu Darboe informing me that he had nominated my name for Ambassador to Moscow (The Russian Federation) and that His Excellency, President Adama Barrow accepted the nomination. He wanted to know if I would acknowledge and take up the appointment. After thanking him and by extension thanking the President for endorsing the nomination, I asked him: “Why Moscow and why me?”. He replied: “We have two Missions in the US; one in Washington DC and our Permanent Mission at the United Nations in New York. Looking at the geopolitics of the world, it is important we have one in Moscow”. Secondly, he said: “I believe you will make a good Ambassador”. I thanked him for his response and requested to be given some time to consider this unexpectedly incredible news in order to make consultations with my family and take in their reaction. The Honourable Minister agreed.

The discourse with my family went smooth. My mother, my husband, my sisters and my children in a unanimous voice applauded the offer and encouraged me to say yes and take working for my country to the next level. My children assured me that I had sacrificed years of my professional career bringing them up, that now is the moment to do something differently rewarding for The Gambia and for my own experience. I sat down and gave myself time to evaluate, reflect and think about this prospective appointment as Ambassador.

I was not a Career Diplomat. Following everyday news, trying to be abreast on what is happening around the world and being an activist is not the same as taking on the job of an Ambassador, I thought. I have been a Biomedical Scientist/Researcher, A Public Health Professional, a Teacher (in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology) and a Lecturer (in Anatomy). I have done work on Hepatitis C and Liver Cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma), drawing much joy from the fact that the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology was awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus. I have done research on HIV/AIDS looking at the prophylactic effects of Cotrimoxazole (brand name: Septrin) in HIV patients with CD4 counts below 500 cells/mm3. (WHO recommendation states less than 200 cells/mm3 but my research was done at a health facility, (MRC-Fajara) whose guidelines were from less than 500 cells/mm3). Being an activist for causes ranging from students’ rights to anti-apartheid fundraisings, adding one’s voice to refugees in Sweden fighting for the restoration of democracy in their respective countries means being firebrand, ready for battle with a mantra: No Retreat, No Surrender! You speak the language of Amilcar Cabral, look up to Che Guevara, reminisce Thomas Sankara and Titina Sillah. You constantly remind yourself that you are a child of Madiba. You speak your mind; you stand for a cause!  

When I called the Honourable Minister back, his first words were: “I hope you have some positive news for me”. The answer was: “Yes” and from that moment to today, he addresses me as “Your Excellency”. Indeed, once Ambassador always an Ambassador.

On May 17th, 2017, I received a letter dated 16th, May 2017 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs written by the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Njogu Saer Bah. The introduction read: “I have the honour to inform you that His Excellency the President of the Republic is pleased to appoint you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of The Gambia to the Russian Federation with effect from 16th May 2017.”

The writing of this article is principally to report back to the general Gambian population both at home and in the Diaspora, especially the former, who paid my salary and upkeep during my tenure as Gambia’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation. Secondly, I would want this report to be a source of inspiration for young people, especially our young women, to venture into the diplomatic field, invest and build their careers on the international arena and most importantly do great work for our country in particular and our continent and the world at large. For them to bring energy and eloquence to a career less populated by women. To choose to represent our country; to be a diplomat and make history.

Background

On January 19th, 2017, in a unanimous verdict, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2337 (S/RES/2337). This resolution congratulated the Gambian people for the holding of a peaceful and transparent Presidential election on 1st December 2016. The Security Council endorsed the decisions of ECOWAS and the AU to recognize the will of the Gambian people in voting for a change of government through the ballot box. It strongly condemned the statement by former President Jammeh on 9th December rejecting the December 1st official election results and in so doing attempting to usurp the will of the people and undermining the integrity of the electoral process in The Gambia. The Russian Federation was among the members of the Security Council who voted in favour of the resolution.

Introduction

The Republic of The Gambia and the Russian Federation (former Soviet Union) established diplomatic relations on July 17th 1965. The Embassy of the Republic of The Gambia to the Russian Federation was first opened in 2016 just to be closed 6 months later. It re-opened in September 2017 after having being closed for nine months. I became the first Ambassador to assume duties at our new Embassy in Moscow.

On September 11th 2017, I left Stockholm for Banjul. My Agrément had arrived a couple of days earlier meaning Russia/President Putin accepted to receive me as The Gambia’s Head of Mission to the Russian Federation. In Banjul, I underwent two training workshops for Diplomats, familiarized myself with The Gambia Foreign Service Rules booklet (FSR) and left for Moscow, arriving on a frosty morning on December 3rd 2017. Moscow is an elegant city with the world’s most extraordinarily beautiful underground.

Moscow is a strategically located capital. It serves as a hub for easy connection with all the former Soviet states. Russia, within the context of the former Soviet Union supported the liberation struggles of many African states. The majority of the World’s nations have their embassies in Moscow and there is a need for the Gambian Embassy to portray a new and better picture of our country after its abrupt and unceremonious closure within 6 months of opening in 2016. Russia, as the former Soviet Union was the country that trained the majority of our doctors and engineers in the past. Whilst working with other global development partners, it is equally important to nurture our bilateral relations with Russia for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples.

The Russian Federation is the largest country in the world with a land area of 17,125,200 square kilometers sharing borders with 16 countries by land: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan, China, North Korea, and the USA. It has a population of 146 million people who have a strong cultural identity and a great sense of patriotism. They have emerged victorious against invading aggressors making them own the slogan: “anyone who comes by the sword will die by the sword”. They defeated fascism and continue to celebrate ‘Victory Day’ every year on May 9th, marking the capitulation of Nazi Germany in the Second World War in 1945. They believe that a strong leader translates to a strong country.

Russia’s extensive mineral and energy resources are the largest such reserves in the world, making Russia one of the leading producers of oil and natural gas globally. It is the number one diamond producing country followed by Botswana. Russia has been characterized as a superpower. The Russian Armed Forces have been ranked as the world’s second most powerful and the most powerful in Europe. Russia is a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council and an active global partner of ASEAN, BRICS, and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

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