A Gambian minister has reportedly spent at least $25,000 (D1 million dalasis) to send four of his party supporters for the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Minister of Tourism, Hamat Bah is not known to have publicly made such a gesture in his nearly two-decade political career raising questions of the source of the funds.
Bah had been an opposition leader for 20 years and became a minister of the state after joining the coalition that handed a shocking defeat to Jammeh last year.
The sharp-tongued politician has only been in office for six months and is reportedly among the ministers who have not declared their assets nearly one month past the initial deadline.
Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has said the asset declaration of his ministers will not be made available to the public citing privacy concerns.
Activists and journalists have said there was no need for ministers to declare their assets if it will not be available to the public to hold them accountable.
Bah’s Hajj gesture is sure to ignite calls and assert pressure on Barrow to reverse his decision and make all declaration available to concerns citizens.
The news of Bah’s Hajj sponsorship is reminiscent of one of former dictator Yahya Jammeh’s political maneuvers to win the support of citizens in the majority Muslim nation.
Bah has in the past taken similar positions with Jammeh, supporting calls for anti-homosexual legislation and sparked controversy last month by urging Gambians to marry locals to prevent a mixed raced society from taking over.