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Monday, July 22, 2024

Swedish MP blames Gambia gov’t for losing embassy to Senegal

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By Omar Bah

A Swedish Member of Parliament of Gambian heritage Momodou Malcom Jallow, yesterday told The Standard that Gambia Government has failed to make efforts to convince Sweden to open an embassy in Banjul instead of Dakar, Senegal.

Stockholm has recently closed its embassies in Mali and Burkina Faso and opened one in Dakar.

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Reacting to the development, MP Jallow said while the decision marks a significant shift in Sweden’s diplomatic presence in West Africa, it overlooks the historical and growing ties between Sweden and The Gambia, as well as the practical needs of the Gambian diaspora in Scandinavia.

“In my several official visits both as an individual and a part of a bigger delegation of several members of Parliament from Sweden, I have repeatedly engaged the Gambia Government and underscored the importance of strengthening bilateral relations with Sweden,” he said.

Jallow disclosed that despite previous meetings with key figures in government, including President Adama Barrow, Ousainu Darboe (then Minister of Foreign Affairs), and officials from the office of the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the foreign affairs committee of National Assembly, there has been a notable passivity and lack of commitment from the Barrow administration to initiate and engage with the Swedish government on this matter.

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“This lack of initiative from the Gambian side is disappointing, particularly given the potential benefits of re-establishing diplomatic missions in both countries. Such efforts would not only facilitate diplomatic engagement but also provide essential consular services to the significant number of Gambians living in Scandinavia,” he added.

MP Jallow stated that the absence of a Gambian Embassy in Scandinavia poses considerable challenges to Gambians residing there, including issues related to visa applications, legal assistance, and other consular services.

“Establishing embassies would bridge this gap, fostering better communication and support between the two nations. Furthermore, the presence of a Gambian embassy in Sweden would symbolize a commitment to reinforcing the historical connections and mutual interests that date back to earlier diplomatic interactions,” he noted.

Despite these challenges, Jallow added, “The opening of the Swedish Embassy in Dakar is a positive step. This new embassy will be geographically closer to Gambians, potentially improving access to diplomatic services for those living in the region. This proximity is beneficial, but it is not a substitute for the dedicated diplomatic representation that embassies in Gambia and Sweden would provide.”

He said the recent policy shift by the Swedish government to close embassies in Bamako and Ouagadougou while planning to open one in Dakar highlights the current conservative Swedish government’s strategy to phase out, discontinue and conclude a significant number of bilateral relations with African countries but also reflects the need for a more nuanced approach to regional diplomacy.

“Recognising the historical relations Sweden shares with the Gambia, the specific needs of the Gambian community and the potential benefits of stronger bilateral ties, it should be a priority and an integral part of both the Swedish and more importantly the Gambian government strategy for international and bi-lateral cooperation. Revitalizing diplomatic relations through embassy establishments would promote not just political and economic cooperation, but also cultural and educational exchanges. It would enable better support for development projects and initiatives that benefit both nations,” he stated.

Jallow stressed that the Swedish government’s decision to consolidate its diplomatic missions in West Africa calls for a reevaluation of how to best serve both Swedish and Gambian interests.

“While the new embassy in Dakar is a step in the right direction, the establishment of embassies in both countries remains crucial. This will ensure that the needs of the Gambian diaspora in Scandinavia are met while enhancing bilateral cooperation on various fronts. The Barrow administration must take a more proactive stance in engaging the Swedish government to achieve this goal,” he concluded.

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