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The Gambia’s OIC Summit. Extravagance or opportunity?

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By Nyaranding Dibba

The just concluded 15th OIC Summit in The Gambia has become a lightning rod for controversy. While the government touts it as a major diplomatic achievement, many citizens are questioning the hefty price tag and lack of tangible benefits.

The summit has been marred by reports of excessive spending. Loan-funded road projects are incomplete, causing traffic congestion. The national power company, Nawec, is implementing rolling blackouts despite prior investments. The purchase of a hundred luxury cars for the two-day event, reportedly financed by a telecoms tycoon, raises eyebrows about the government’s financial priorities.

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Security concerns have also emerged, with reports of burglaries in luxury homes rented for guests. The decision to invite Senegal’s national TV station, RTS, to broadcast the event sparked additional controversy. While Gambian stations have the manpower to film, they lack the equipment and experience for international broadcasts. This highlights the need for investment in the Gambian broadcast industry, particularly equipping and training GRTS to fully host such an event. Government’s decision to pay the private TVs to propagate their agenda is seen as a waste of resources. The money could have helped GRTS to modernise their aging equipment. 

The President’s supporters hail the summit as a success. NPP surrogates always see every public event an opportunity to massage the President’s ego. Critics especially loyal Jammeh supporters point to the absence of leaders from major member states compared to the 2006 AU summit, as a diplomatic failure.

Adding to the debate, some Muslim religious clerics believe the government focused more on glitz and glamour, while Islamic values took a back seat. Many Muslims question the spending of large sums on music and entertainment, considering it a misplaced priority.

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Furthermore, the appointment of Yankuba Dibba, former Family Planning Association Executive Director with a history of running the organisation into the ground, as head of the OIC Gambia secretariat is seen by some as a reward for failure, handing him a bigger and more complex job.

The OIC Summit presents a complex picture. While a successful summit could boost Gambia’s international standing and potentially attract investment, the current issues raise concerns about transparency and long-term benefits. The government must address public concerns about spending and ensure tangible outcomes beyond the summit’s two days.

The OIC Summit has highlighted the complexities of hosting a major international event. While the government aimed for a grand showcase, questions linger about the financial viability and long-term impact. Public opinion is divided, with some celebrating the achievement and others questioning the priorities. The true measure of success will depend on the tangible benefits that The Gambia reaps from hosting the event.

The true success of the summit will be measured not by the extravagance but by its impact on The Gambia’s development. Did it attract new investment? Did it strengthen regional ties? Did it showcase Gambian culture and potential?

Only time will tell if the summit proves to be a catalyst for progress or a missed opportunity shrouded in extravagance.

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