Firstly, Lawyer Darboe may have contested several elections before, but it’s not six, and he contested none while holding public office, unlike Bakary Badjie who was a serving minister of the govt whilst contesting for a Mayoral seat. In spite of this, he went on to lose to Talib. That’s where the loss of public confidence comes into play.
Secondly, Bakary’s performance as minister had been a subject of public scrutiny and contestation during the campaign. On the other hand, Darboe’s only Achilles hill during the last presidential elections was his Mandingo identity, which the NPP brazenly jumped upon to excite hatred against the Mandingo tribe of The Gambia.
Finally, if Darboe was judged only on his achievements in govt, he would have won hands down notwithstanding the cheating irregularities that marred the 2021 presidential elections. Here are some of his achievements as Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Lawyer Darboe as Foreign Minister: Some of his achievements:
The UDP was a major stakeholder in the political coalition that effected the democratic change of government in 2016. Prior to this, The Gambia was a pariah state with very little voice and respect at the international level. The country had a very poor human rights and governance record, which earned us notoriety and forced the European Union (EU) in particular to withheld millions of euros in development assistance and budgetary support.
The Jammeh administration had to resort to massive borrowing to finance the perennial budget deficit, and in the process created a gigantic debt burden for the country, which consequently weakened our fiscal position.
With the swearing-in of Lawyer Ousainou Darboe as Foreign Minister in early February 2017, The Gambia began to witness a thaw in our foreign relations. He met with foreign diplomats accredited to The Gambia the next day as part of his outreach efforts to rebuild relations and trust, and also to restore the country’s lost democratic image and credibility.
In the same week, the EU announced the immediate release of €33 million to The Gambia, which had previously been frozen due to the human rights situation in the country. A further €225 million was announced on February 9, 2017, of which €75 million was allocated to addressing food insecurity, youth unemployment, and the poor condition of roads in the country.
Additional support targeting other development priorities, were subsequently delivered, bringing the total EU development assistance to The Gambia to €365 million by the last quarter of 2020 (EU, October 9, 2020). The World Bank, IMF, and the ADB also provided similar assistance.
In sum, Darboe’s initial outreach to the international community and to our development partners in particular, has brought tremendous benefits to the country not only in terms of regaining trust and confidence, but also attracting the necessary development assistance. Other benefits include budget support, support for the maintenance of peace and security in The Gambia, and also the political stabilisation of the country.
His tactful diplomatic offensive overseas also attracted debt relief for The Gambia, as well as development projects, including the infrastructural projects in the Upper River Region (URR), and the OIC projects.
Darboe was instrumental in mobilising international support for the National Development Plan (NDP), culminating in the Brussels Donor Conference, which fetched a whopping $1.7 billion in pledges. Although many donors later reneged on their pledges when President Barrow’s lack of credibility became increasingly apparent, few hundreds of millions in US Dollars were nonetheless delivered to the Treasury to advance The Gambia’s development aspirations.
He is widely acclaimed for returning The Gambia to the Commonwealth in 2018, which gave us the opportunity to be part of a mutually supportive community of sovereign nations, and to foster cooperation with major international players across the 54 member states.
Membership of the Commonwealth also offers an opportunity to attract debt relief, trade, support for climate change mitigation, and to gain access to technical assistance, capacity building, and scholarships, as well as access to over 80 NGOs that assist the Commonwealth in many different areas, including education and research, promoting social equality, and sports.
Darboe also acted swiftly to stop The Gambia’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, a process initiated by the Jammeh administration. This quick action to reverse course was a significant step in affirming the New Gambia’s commitment to the international criminal justice system and to our obligations under the various international human rights laws, thereby bolstering the country’s international image.
Written by: Suntu S. Daffeh
England, United Kingdom