Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has confirmed the country’s former Ambassador to the United States, Sheikh Omar Faye as the small West African nation’s Deputy Head of Mission to the United Arab Emirates, home to Persian Gulf city of Dubai.
Faye was the first known Gambian diplomat to disavow former President Yahya Jammeh to back Mr. Barrow, setting a precedent for more than a dozen others after Jammeh refused to cede power.
The Gambian diplomat had his fair share of opposition with activists in the U.S. during the last three years of Jammeh’s rule when he served as chargé d’affaires and later ambassador to the former autocratic ruler’s regime.
Faye was fired by Jammeh in December, just a month before the former leader’s term ended for his backing of Mr. Barrow but was reinstated and later recalled to home service by President Barrow, who took power on January 19.
Jammeh’s refusal to cede power sent more than 75,000 Gambian fleeing to neighboring Senegal and left at least 150,000 people internally displaced. West African troops forced Jammeh to flee to Equatorial Guinea.
Jammeh is accused of human rights abuses and is being investigated for corruption. A campaign was launched Saturday to have him extradited to the Gambia. Gambian authorities also accuse the former strongman of swindling billions and stealing $50 million before he fled.
“During the first republic, until the first coup happened, we were called the champion of human rights. But when people stay in power for too long, there’s a tendency to concentrate power. Those are the disadvantages of overstaying your welcome. That’s why it’s always good to have term limits.”
But activists say this is the very regime that Faye defended. Mr. Faye said it was otherwise. According to the diplomat, he was serving his country like many who fell apart with Jammeh and openly criticized him and maintains that all did in Washington was to be open and represent the best interest of Gambians and not Mr. Jammeh.
In several interviews after his return to The Gambia, Faye has asked for forgiveness for “mistakes he might have committed” while serving the country, especially in Washington
Faye served in the army and work as a military aide to the country’s first post-independence leader, Dawda Jawara. He served in Jammeh’s government as Director of Information, Minister of Youths and Sports and also Deputy Ambassador to Mauritania.
Faye’s new office, for now, will be in Abu Dhabi where he will be representing Mr. Barrow’s government. The new administration is seeking to charm businesses from Gulf states to invest in the Gambia, which is emerging from decades of isolation under Jammeh.
With democracy flourishing, Gambia’s economic outlook has been favorable and IMF projected a three percent growth this year. The country’s Foreign Minister, Ousainou Darboe has been to the Middle East as part of the campaign to lure businesses.
Armed with the “Gambia is open for business” slogan, the Barrow administration is seeking to quickly address the country’s energy crisis, a sector critical to the magnitude and kind of businesses the country, mainland Africa’s smallest attracts.