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MoFA says diplomats in Cuba can’t continue to represent Gambia

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday confirmed that ambassador to Cuba, Sheikh Tijan Hydara, and his deputy Vincent Mendy, have been recalled.

A release issued yesterday stated that the two diplomats were involved in a fight at their duty station in Havana and initial findings and available evidence confirmed that their actions were inconsistent with diplomatic norms and consequently they have lost the integrity and privilege to continue representing The Gambia as diplomats. 

The statement further revealed that in an effort to understand not only the incident but also the overall operations of the embassy in Havana, government deployed a fact-finding mission to Cuba to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent future occurrences of a simular nature and also ensure the irregularities in the operations of the embassy in Cuba are normalised.

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The fight

In leaked correspondences seen by The Standard, the two diplomats gave conflicting narrations of what transpired at the embassy on 25 January 2024.

Explaining his side of the story, Hydara said after an initial charged meeting earlier that day, Vincent returned, barged into his office demanding keys to the utility car and when he refused, to his “utter shock and disbelief”, Vincent doubled down by saying, ‘if you don’t give me the key, I will deal with you’.

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He explained: “Then I got up and said to him, ‘Ok, come and deal with me because I don’t know what you want. We have been having similar meetings where we discussed official matters, and they ended up peacefully’. And again, he said, ‘I don’t care, give me the key or else I will deal with you’.  It was at that point that he started hitting me on my face, and Modou Nying and Pa Bajinka tried to restrain him. He continued to attack me… they still could not stop him from throwing punches at me, and my face was bleeding, and at some point, I fell to the ground, but he continued hitting me. At some point, because of the noise, the drivers who were downstairs came inside the office, held him, and took him out of the office.

‘… I took photos of my bleeding face, injuries, and my shirt, which was stained with blood and sent them to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Banjul. About 30 minutes later, he returned to my office with the same aggression, requested the key again, and said, ‘Give me the key’, but before he could get to where I was, the staff took him away.

“Vincent Mendy’s unwarranted and unprovoked physical attack on me caused severe injuries on my face, ears, forehead and body… My forehead was swollen, blood was coming out from my ears, and my nose was bleeding as well. There were cuts on my finger because he attempted to bite it, and I sustained several bruises on my body. My shirt was stained with blood, too… “However, out of respect for the honour bestowed on me by President Adama Barrow and my office, I thank God I never lifted my hands against Vincent Jatta.”

On his side, Vincent Mendy said he went to the ambassador’s office on the day to take the key.

He explained: “When I entered, I found Bajinka, Jammeh, and Nying sitting, and as they saw me enter and walk towards the ambassador to ask for the key, they got up and held me back to the door. He got up from his chair and ran towards me determined to confront me physically. I was already held by these three people. At that moment I did not know what to do… and if I did not defend myself, I would get hurt. He then threw the first blow but I managed to dodge it and freed myself from the grip of the three people who held me, and then I fought back. They were able to separate us and took me out. At exactly four o’clock, I went back to his office to tell him to give me the key but these three people did not let me speak. Then I remembered that I had a spare key to the car which I subsequently used to go home with the car.”

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