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A Peaceful Transition will be the Best Legacy of Yahya Jammeh -Washington Envoy Omar Faye

January 18, 2017

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Ambassador Omar Faye

Ambassador Omar Faye

When President Yahya Jammeh threw a spanner in the works of what Gambians, Africa and the world was celebrating as a historic moment for the small West African Country, it put Omar Faye in a very tough spot: drawing a line between his loyalty to President Jammeh and his love for the country.

His choice was Gambia first, and for this, embattled President Jammeh terminated his appointment as Ambassador to Washington, DC but Omar Faye remains undaunted in his believe that after 22 years in power, the honorable thing for President Jammeh to do was to respect the will of the people and leave power.

Making the choice was not easy for Ambassador Omar Faye, a former star track and field athlete who represented Gambia in international competitions like the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Faye equally had a brilliant military career with trainings at the British Academy in Sandhurst, and the U.S Army Command and General Staff College of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Faye’s military career also included a stint with the peacekeeping force in Liberia during that country’s brutal civil war of the early 90s.

President elect Adama Barrow is in Senegal ahead of the inauguration

President elect Adama Barrow is in Senegal ahead of the inauguration

The decision to side with the majority of Gambians is nothing personal at all against President Jammeh, said Omar Faye in a recent interview at his residence in Silver Spring, MD. Faye, who served as Director of Press and Public Relations, Minister of Youth and Sports, and Deputy Ambassador to Mauritania for seven years prior to his move to Washington, believes that Yahya Jammeh owes Gambians a peaceful transition to cap off 22 years of leadership.

President Jammeh himself said elections in Gambia are the most transparent and rig free, and for him to turn around and cast doubts after his gracious concessions is insulting to Gambians, and makes a mockery of the democracy he has worked to instill. Jammeh has done a lot for the country regardless of legitimate concerns on his style of leadership but a graceful exit will only make him, Gambia and Africa look bigger, Ambassador Omar Faye said.

On the conduct of elections itself, Ambassador Omar Faye said the people spoke. The votes were tallied on the spot leaving little room for maneuvering. Gambians stayed up all night as the results were been counted and the verdict was a victory for opposition challenger Adama Barrow. Describing Independent Electoral Commission Chairman Alieu Momarr Njai as a very honorable person whose work was difficult to impugn, Omar Faye said the results though unexpected, reflected the will of the people. The discrepancies in numbers cited by President Jammeh were not enough to fundamentally alter the eventual outcome of the elections from what was presented, said Faye.

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

For those who had strong words of criticism for discussions by some opposition leaders on how best to go after Jammeh once he leaves office, Omar Faye was not sure about who said what or the impact it had in making the President change his mind. President Jammeh deserves respect as an outgoing President and for his decades of services to the Gambia, said Omar Faye. He may not have been perfect, but the challenge before the incoming administration should be to build on the successes of the Jammeh years in moving Gambia forward. Anyone issuing threats or wasting energy in dwelling on sanctions for Jammeh when he leaves power is not doing the transition process any favors at this point, he cautioned.

Setting the record straight on his situation as Gambia’s Envoy to Washington, DC, Omar Faye said his appointment was terminated after he made his position known that President Jammeh should accept the verdict from the polls. Part of my job was to represent and show a dignified Gambia. It was hard to remain indifferent to the way things unfolded after the elections, said Faye who is in the same situation as dozens of other Gambian diplomats across the world who have incurred the wrath of the Jammeh administration for not backing his plans to remain in power.

Lauding diplomatic efforts from the regional body ECOWAS, Omar Faye remained hopeful on prospects of an amicable solution that will see a peaceful transfer of power. Gambians are people of great dignity, they want to live in peace and hopefully President Jammeh shows the love he has always had for the country by stepping down in a manner that keeps the country and all he has worked for intact.

Omar Faye at the White House with US President Barack Obama

Omar Faye at the White House with US President Barack Obama

As for Omar Faye, he has no regrets. As much as he appreciates the opportunities given to him by President Jammeh to serve Gambians, Gambia is bigger than any one individual. His loyalty to President Jammeh has never been in doubt but at this point in history, the right call is to put country first and it is his hope that all Gambians will do same.

 

 

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