Foreign Minister Tangara Sets Record Straight
Clarification of allegations made by Former Vice President Madam Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang regarding her dismissal as Vice President and trip to the 62nd Session of The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York
Since the removal of Madam Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang from office as Vice President, she made numerous unguarded and unfounded allegations against me and other public officials regarding the motivations for her removal.
She first made the allegations during a media interview she granted on October 15th, 2018 at the ceremony grounds for the launching of the TRRC. Out of respect for her and the Office she had occupied, her accusations were politely ignored as every individual directly affected by her remarks knew what the truth was. The inconsistent and contradictory narratives that emanated from her numerous media interviews regarding her sacking are enough to convince all discerning people that she has an axe to grind.
The VP serves at the pleasure of the President and the President can remove the VP without offering any reason at all. I would not have bothered to respond to the statements, but where allegations of impropriety have been made, it is imperative to address the matter on the basis of facts. Moreover, the former VP has thrown down the gauntlet for anybody to challenge her assertions.
In her recent sit-down interview with Kerr Fatou TV Programme, she stated that I had a vendetta against her and that Ousainu Darboe and I orchestrated her removal from Office. I have had no vendetta against her. But the moment she became Vice President, her behaviour was no longer compatible with her words. Yet still, she was always regarded as a mother and was treated as such. Her personal relationship with me is a longstanding one.
On the contrary, she initiated an ill-considered text-message with the clear aim of lambasting and upbraiding me and my staff for her ‘difficult and embarrassing experience’ at New York’s JFK Airport by security while on a poorly planned journey to Chile for a meeting. The trip was not officially communicated to the Permanent Mission.
A large part of the communication concerning that trip was all conducted through the WhatsApp messaging platform. The ticket was procured the night before the travel and as a result she was not able to travel on the same route with her Protocol Officer. Her security officer was left in New York and could not proceed to Chile for lack of a ticket and poor arrangements. She travelled to Chile without these essential personnel.
I as the Ambassador and the Mission staff still went to the airport over a weekend and assisted her and the people travelling with her. Instead of thanking us, she sent an ill-considered text message to me, which raised serious questions about her temperament and judgment as a person occupying the high office of Vice President. The tone was demeaning and beneath the office of the VP.
Despite all the shock and disappointment that her text message occasioned, she received a polite and cultured response, which sought to dispel her erroneous assertions and further tame her emotional outburst. A Vice-President should not embark on poorly planned trips, especially, those that could expose the occupant to denial of privileges and courtesies normally accorded to such officials.
Coming to the VP’s trip to the 62nd Session of The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the logistical arrangements were always facilitated by the Mission in New York. Under the former Government, the former VP and her delegation used to attend the sessions of the Commission and the Mission would facilitate the arrangements for their visit to and stay in New York. Her visit to New York for the 61st session of the CSW was facilitated in a similar manner. In this instance, the Mission facilitated the usual hiring of vehicles on similar terms as in the past with the hiring of vehicles from a Gambian Rental Group in New York under the leadership of one Mr. Essa Jaiteh. For more than seven years, this group of Gambians have consistently provided diligent transportation services to various Gambian delegations, especially, the Presidential Delegations to the United Nations.
In the case of the 62nd Session of the CSW, the VP led the delegation and a number of different vehicles were hired for use by the delegation. In view of the duration of their stay in New York rates were calculated at the usual agreed rate with this group and an invoice was obtained. Their rate, as compared to other transport service providers, is below the market rate. The Group rendered their services on the basis of the usual understanding that they would be paid their money at the end of the agreed time. At the time the delegation was departing, the money for the hotel accommodation and transportation was not even wired to the Mission’s Account in New York. By the checking-out time, when the VP was departing her New York hotel the bill was not settled. The transport bill was also not settled. I had to negotiate with the hotel to allow the delegation to depart on the guarantee that the Mission would settle the bill the following week. In the course of those negotiations, the VP had to even call the then Finance Minister, Mr. Amadou Sanneh, the Accountant General and even some senior officials at the Central Bank to facilitate the transfer of the funds. There were suggestions, at the time, to even borrow funds from a Gambian businessman in New York to settle the hotel bill on the day but that was aborted.
In essence, the VP never actually travelled with the hotel and transport funds to New York as claimed in her interview. If it were not for the goodwill and longstanding relations that the Mission had with these service providers, a major national embarrassment could have occurred. To make another point clear, at the same hotel, the VP was offered other choice of suites with lower rates in New York but she chose the suite with a higher rate which contradicts her claim that she was trying to save The Gambia some money.
On the question of paying the Transport Group over $21,000 for their services: the invoice was shared with her Office. The overall wire transfer authorised for the trip’s expenditure was $32,000.00 (hotel accommodation, transport services, miscellaneous expenses). It was after returning to The Gambia when the services were already rendered that the Office of the VP raised concerns in an email whilst the Group was waiting for their money. To the surprise of everyone involved, it was claimed that the bill was high and the VP would not approve its payment. In the interim, the money was wired upon the delegation’s return to The Gambia. The hotel bill was settled by Mission through a cheque.
The Mission brought the issues raised by the VP’s Office regarding the transport bill to the attention of the transport group with a view to seeing whether they could reduce the amount. The group agreed to knock off about $3,000 from the $21,000 and it came down to $18,680. The balance that was left after the hotel bill and entertainment expenses were settled amounted to about $15,000 – which was less than the amount owed to the transporters. They were paid $15,000 and a balance of over $3,000 remained outstanding. This outstanding amount has still not been settled as it was the diktat of the VP that she was only going to approve $10,000. She never made any effort to get that outstanding balance paid. The records concerning how the money was disbursed are incorporated in the Mission’s books of account, which are kept at the Accountant General’s Department.
The Mission brought this to the attention of the transporters and they said they were going to leave it to God. Where is the money that she alleges that I have taken when over $3000 is owed to innocent and hardworking Gambians to this day? Contrast this with what she said in her interview and draw your own conclusion. Is this the way a VP should conduct business on behalf of the Government? I did not touch a dime of that money and the Mission’s Deputy Head who is the Accounting Officer and the Finance Attache’ bear witness.
Contrary to what was alleged every approving authority was fully aware of how the payments were done and properly accounted for in line with Government accounting procedures. Why would the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ousainu Darboe, waste his time to investigate an allegation that is without merit when the accounting records are very clear? Why would the Accountant General waste his time to ask someone to pay back money when that money is only a figment of someone’s fertile and wild imagination? Could the former VP who described herself as a humble servant of God and a paragon of virtue shed light on the issue of her so-called Personal Assistant she took to New York at the expense of the state for CSW61 and never attended a single meeting?
A point that also needs clarification is that the former VP stated that she was given ‘a very small car’ and her immediate entourage was given the Mission’s van. The car in question is the Mission’s flag car – the number one that the Ambassador uses and it is an E350 Mercedes Benz. Almost all Gambian dignitaries have used the flag car at one time or the other without any fuss. The van is the utility van of the Mission. The Ambassador and staff abandoned these vehicles for use by the VP and her entourage for the reason that they can access the United Nations compound and also park at its garage for pick-up and drop-off. It was for the convenience of the VP that the Mission’s vehicles were assigned to her and her entourage.
As a consequence of that arrangement, the Ambassador, staff and some delegates lodged at the Ambassador’s residence used one of the rented vehicles to go to and from work (New Jersey to New York). It was always crowded with seven people. The other rented vehicles were used to ferry delegates residing in the Bronx to and from their meetings as well as between errands to the hotel and other parts of the city. For those who may wonder as to the cost involved, the hiring of vehicles also includes the services of designated chauffeurs, toll and fuel expenses. This particular group of Gambian drivers do not even ask for overtime pay.
On the question of the letter allegedly addressed to UNEP was in fact addressed to the UN Secretary-General (Attn: Executive Director, UN-Habitat) with a view to recommending a Gambian national as a candidate for a job at the UN-Habitat. The former VP is on record as saying that it was not addressed to the UN but UNEP. She also denied that she signed off on such a letter as “Acting President”. She later corrected herself in the second interview that she gave to Kerr Fatou TV on 10th October 2019 that she in fact admitted signing off the said letter as “Acting President”. She alleged in her earlier interview in October 2018 that her letter was changed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nobody changed that letter and the Mission only saw it the day after the deadline for submission of the job application. The letter was not a requirement.
The Mission submitted the job application before midnight of the deadline date of 8 May 2019 (Nairobi time) even whereas it was not required to do so. There was a designated email address through which it could have been submitted from Banjul. In submitting the application, the Mission even went further to forward all the relevant attachments under the cover of a note verbale which also vouched for the character of the applicant as a person not involved in human rights violations or criminality. Emails, text messages and relevant documents concerning this unfortunate saga are available to shed light on the truth. You may also want to listen to her other interview clip with Gambia Talents Promotion TV widely available on YouTube.
I would like to be on record that I was merely doing my job by intercepting the letter wrongly addressed to the UN Secretary General in addition to mistakes contained therein. It is an open secret that she is on record for breaking protocols and I drew the attention of people close to her to advise her to pay heed to state protocols and symbols.
The point, however, has to do with her unfounded allegation that Minister Darboe and I engineered her sacking and changed her letter. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing on record as to the reasons for her removal from Office by the President. At no point in the email exchange regarding the job application was Minister Darboe privy. I never advised President Barrow to sack her. This is pure conjecture. Is it the chain of succession that happened after her removal which prompted her to put out a conspiracy theory regarding Ousainu Darboe and I? All members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President. Repeating an untrue narrative or speculating as to the motivations for her sacking can only be borne out of misplaced bitterness.
Accepting the will of Allah SWT is an essential element of Iman for all God-fearing people. The Office of the Vice President is the second highest office in the Executive Branch of our country and anything that emanates from there should be worthy of our collective respect. Respect is earned. Allah SWT commands us to repent and seek forgiveness for our verbal transgressions.
‘The truth shall set you free’!
Dr. Mamadou Tangara