Gambia’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice Baa Tambadou, has debunked social media reports alleging that he has favored Fatu Camara, and Imam Baba Leigh, both former victims of dictator Yahya Jammeh’s rule to be part of the upcoming Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Support Staff. Ms. Camara, and Baba Leigh, were among the delegation, who recently travelled to the former war ravaged nation Sierra Leone, accompanied by Justice Minister Tambadou to embark on a study tour of the Sierra Leonean TRC, which reconciled and united the people of Sierra Leone amid a decade long bloody civil war.
Ahmed Gitteh, a former member of the Fatu Network, took on Facebook, questioning the impartiality of both Ms. Camara and Imam Leigh, while citing the past persecution the duo suffered under Jammeh’s rule. Mr. Gitteh argues that Ms. Camara and Mr. Leigh, have been disqualified as an “independent and impartial” members of the TRC support staff—in view of their past persecution history with the former Jammeh regime. Gitteh contends that one cannot be victim at the same time and doubles as TRC support staff. A claim both Minister Baa Tambadou and Fatu Camara strongly debunked.
“This is just a storm in a teacup. I have more important and serious matters to deal with at the moment than talking about favoritism. In what interest? For what purpose? For what objective? We have not appointed anybody. I have made it million times clear. We have not selected anybody. I designated… I used my discretion based on necessity and urgency to assembly a team to travel to Sierra Leone for a study tour. I choose Baba Leigh, as a victim to be the representative of the victims. I could have chosen anybody else, and Baba Leigh was not the only one, who is a victim. I chose Ms. Kani Touray of my Ministry, just I could have chosen any other staff of my Ministry,” Justice Minister Tambadou told Freedom Radio Gambia’s Sunday Leral show during an exclusive interview. Mr. Tambadou, who was in the UK, at time of the interview further explains why he selected Fatu Camara to be part of the study tour.
“I used my own discretion to select Fatu Camara. And I will tell you why I did so, because this is not an appointment to any position. Not at all. This is purely a technical team to go and study, because Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), has different aspects. And one important aspect is outreach; communication; informing the people; giving the people information about what is going on. We need a communication strategist. Fatu Camara, for many reasons; one, I am satisfied with her communication skills; Fatu, has been involved in shows; She used to run the Fatu’s show in the Gambia; she also runs the Fatu Network; she owns Fatu radio; she is a member of the diaspora group, who have contributed immensely to this change,” Minister Tambadou said.
Justice Minister Tambadou also noted that the diasporan Gambian community is an important constituent as far as his Ministry was concerned. Hence, he decided to select Fatu Camara, as a Media designate for the study tour.
“I have adopted a policy at my Ministry, to involve as many from the diaspora, in the activities of the Ministry, as possible, whenever the opportunity arises. Why not Fatu? Why should it be somebody else, when I have seen her work. Imam Baba Leigh. You see the UNDP gave me a list of people; they suggest a list of areas that should consist of the membership of the tour. I made suggestions to them. They made suggestions to me. So, it was in consultation,” he doubled down.
Mr. Tambadou told Freedom Radio Gambia it is rather premature for people to speculate about who will be on the TRC support staff. He said he is not sure whether Fatu Camara or Baba Leigh were interested in working with the Commission in the first place.
“Who even knows if Fatu Camara is interested in working for the TRC? That’s another point as well. Really, I don’t have time for the petty squabbles. I have more important matters to deal with. I will focus on those areas. So basically, what are they saying? That I favored Fatu Camara,” he remarked.
When told that Ahemed Gitteh, quoted him Baa, as saying that Fatu Camara and Baba Leigh were part of the TRC support staff, hear what Baa has to say: “You are not listening. They are not part of the support staff. They are going out there and focus on a given area. At the end of the day, we are going to jointly design a model that will fit our purpose. The support staff hasn’t been constituted yet. I will not get into what Gitteh said or not. Like as I said, I really don’t have time to waste on issues like this. I designated someone. It is like if you are a manager, you will have some discretion. If I cannot exercise my discretion in any shape or form, anything.. Come on.. These are not positions that has been given out. I want the people to understand that. They are not. The team composed of seven people. Why are not talking about all those who formed the study tour? Why are they focusing on Fatu Camara and Imam Baba Leigh? What is the problem?”
Mr. Tambadou noted that Gambians have legitimate right to raise questions, if they are in doubt, especially on matters concerning his Ministry. He said he tried to relate his own side of the story to Mr. Gitteh, but Gitteh, was still adamant on his position that that the selection of Camara and Leigh to be part of the TRC was wrong.
“There wouldn’t be any favoritism here. I have no special relationship with Fatu Camara and Baba Leigh. What I did was purely based on my judgment and based on the needs of the study tour. Simple as that.
She has been designated. Perhaps, we should look at the word designation for the time being. Like I said, I don’t have time to delve into all those details. She has been designated. Again, I insist: Every appointment to every position to the TRC, will be advertised and recruitment will be done in an open and transparent manner,” Tambadou said.
“I feel she was qualified to be on this study tour. Whether, she is qualified to be actively recruited into the TRC support structure, that would not be up to me. That would be up to the TRC, that would be set up. The Commission itself will determine that,” he added.
When asked if Fatu Camara and Baba Leigh happen to work with the TRC support staff in the future; would it be fair for anyone to characterize their appointments as a fix—given the fact that Fatu and Imam Leigh, were selected to be part of the study tour without any formal appointment letter, in response Tambadou said: “One thing lawyers don’t ever do is to speculate. I am not going sit here to speculate what is going to happen in five years time. You give me the facts, and respond to those facts. I am afraid that’s all I can do. Give me a fact here and there, and I will respond to you on those facts.”
For her part, Fatu Camara, the former Jammeh press officer said in the Wollof dialect: “ Fatu’s name is a household; wherever my name comes up or associated with something, it would attract public interest. But I want them to tell me, where in the constitution that it is stated that if one is a victim of the former Jammeh government, he, or she cannot work with the Commission’s support staff? I want to know. The job I am going to do for the TRC, is something that I know and mastered. My job is associated with my profession and area of expertise. Let say, if they say they were going to appoint me, as an accountant, or a Commissioner, then that could generate a controversy. At times, people talk about issues that they don’t know. That’s why people aspiring to venture into our media profession, I always advise them to embark on research before commenting on issues. That way, some of things they are talking about will make some sense. I am not a Commissioner. I haven’t been there for anything other than being a support staff. I am just doing my job; that what many know me for; that is PR.”
“I haven’t been hired officially yet. I am yet to get the job. I have been designated as a Communication strategist and outreach officer. The Commission hasn’t been constituted yet. It should be constituted by an Act of Parliament. It should be an autonomous body. It must be taken to parliament for an enactment and the president will then sign the bill. For now, nothing is happening. We were just identified to be part of the study tour to Sierra Leone. What happened in Sierra Leone was a civil war, and in the Gambia, was a dictatorship. We were sent to learn from the Sierra Leonean TRC,” Ms. Camara added.
When asked whether she was interested in the position of TRC Media officer, Ms. Camara remarked: “ It is not a question of whether I am interested in the job.. I have my own business. I have a job. It is a question of serving one’s country. Both you Pa, and myself, have contributed immensely towards the change we had today in the Gambia. No one can question our contribution to the struggle. So, if one has done her part in successfully effecting change in the Gambia, if in need by her country for services, the only thing that I can do is to serve my country. It is not something that I need, but I decided to contribute my quota by accepting to serve. Eighty percent of the victims of the Jammeh regime, have passed through the Fatu radio network. The Fatu Network, has also supported them (the victims) when they were going through persecution under Jammeh’s watch. So, working with the same victims, is not something new to me. It is like a continuation of my work. Like I told you, if my country needs me, I should step up to the plate and serve her.”
Ms. Camara argues that her working for the Commission will not a cause a conflict of interest as suggested by her critics. She said she will execute her duties with utmost professionalism.
“Once I assume duties, I will make sure that all media houses will be treated equally. It doesn’t mean that I am going to pass the information to Fatu radio first. No. I will treat all media houses equally. My job is going to be about PR and sensitization. I will be talking to the people,” she said.
“Regarding the study tour, I was contacted. I had to send them a CV, which was sent to the UNDP. The UNDP funded the study tour. It was not funded by the Gambian government. I then sent them my CV. I receive no objection about my CV. The UNDP then sent me an air ticket. Then, I was part of the delegation to Sierra Leone. I was paid a per diem. The payments came from the UNDP,” she added.
When asked whether the position of media designate was advertised, Ms. Camara remarked “ Waye Pa Nderry, why advertising? When it comes to PR, and you need an effective communication, the person offering the job, has the right to select the person, he trusts. How many people have I brought to Fatu Network? Where was it advertised? I check on people that I believe can do the job. This is a PR job. It is not a question of Pa Nderry Mbai, has a PHD, and he is qualified for the job. You should look for someone who can make an effective communication. That the person is articulate; that when he, or she speaks people will listen to him or her. You don’t just go and advertise just for the sake of advertising. Pa, you know that if it is advertised I am not going to apply. I have a lot of work to do here. They selected me because they know that I can do the job. The victims haven’t objected to my job. Gambians do not have an objection. This is not a full time job. It is a contract of two years.”
Ms. Camara also said Baa Tambadou, had confidence in her that’s why she was selected. She disclosed to the Freedom Radio Gambia, the people, who had taken part on the tour.
“Six of us were part of the study tour. The UNDP was represented by Basiru Jahumpa, Imam Baba Leigh, represented the victims, Kani Touray, a State Counsel, represented the Ministry of Justice, CMC Sarr represented the police, Hussein Thomasi, an adviser to the Attorney General, was also part of the delegation, the AG Baa Tambadou, was with us, but he spent two nights in Freetown and left because he said he has other missions to conduct,” she said.
Ms. Camara refused to engage in name calling during the interview. She rejected Mr. Gitteh’s claims against her. She said the people picking on her passed through her hands at Fatu Network.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai
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