Gambia’s leading independent candidate in the December polls said she is ‘ashamed’ of her country’s foreign policy, accusing the administration of President Yahya Jammeh of destroying the nation’s multilateral and bilateral relations.
When mainland Africa’s smallest country became independent, it focused on building its relations with neighboring Senegal and the United Kingdom. The Gambia, known for tourism and its peanuts was one time Africa’s most democratic nation and its catalyst for human rights advancement.
The country of fewer than two million people played vital roles in international peace efforts including the mediation to end the Gulf War. It was seen as a friend to every nation. It built strong relations with Western nations, especially the UK.
President Yahya Jammeh who took power in 1994 after facing challenges with his military transitional government shifted to checkbook diplomacy with Cuba, Taiwan, Iran, Venezuela, and Libya. Jammeh has broken ties with Taiwan to shift back to mainland China and redirecting his foreign policy to have stronger ties with Arab nations – calling the predominantly moderate Muslim nation an Islamic State.
Touray has denounced Mr. Jammeh’s pronouncement and criticized his unilateral decision to pull the former British colony out of the Commonwealth of Nations.
President Jammeh said the abrupt departure of The Gambia from the Commonwealth is for it to break “its colonial past from neo-colonial hegemony.”
Dr. Touray said the policies are not resonating with the international community and The Gambia’s international commitments.
The Gambia, which was an unlikely nation to interfere in certain international matters became the first to support President Laurent Gbagbo after his election defeat and supported China in disputes over the South China sea.
Arms shipments of Iranian weapons bound for The Gambia were seized at the Port of Lagos with international experts saying they were destined for Hizbollah, a Middle Eastern terrorist group with links to financiers and businesses in the West African nation.
President Jammeh’s administration has been having a war of statement rhetoric with the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Diplomats from these nations have been expelled, the latest being EU Envoy Anges Guillard.
The United States has suspended the country from its Millennium Challenge Fund and the trade preferential AGOA deal. Its financial support to the nation has declined from some millions to less than $200,000 a year. The EU has suspended at least 32 million Euro of aid and budgetary support to The Gambia and the United Kingdom has withdrawn its support.
The Gambia has become notorious for not respecting international agreements and has closed now many foreign businesses, hostily taking over. Investors said it has scared them.
In a nationally televised addressed streamed on-line this weekend, Dr. Isatou Touray promised to have the country reinstated into the Commonwealth and restore its reputation restored in the international community, especially with Senegal.
This Spring, a border impasse between The Gambia and Senegal soured relations after President Jammeh gave an executive order to increased tariff for commercial vehicles to $700. He later rescinded the decision but not without accusation towards Senegalese authorities of sabotaging his government and insulting its past and present leaders.
Senegal is most important when it comes to The Gambia’s foreign and economic policies. Jammeh has continuously accused the nation of harboring dissidents, whom he called enemies of the state, most of them journalists, rights defenders and pro-democracy activists and former senior military officers held liable of attempting to overthrow his regime.
The Gambia is getting increasingly isolated with President Jammeh failing in strings of bid to become Chairperson of regional and sub-regional groups including ECOWAS and the African Union.