Nov 16, 2009, 12:14 PM
Various ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls to The Gambia have taken turns to laud and applaud the Gambian leader for “his magnanimous gesture” of pardoning prisoners en mass, including foreign nationals.
The foreign diplomats were speaking at a diplomatic briefing session organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a hotel in Kololi.
Foreign Affairs Minister Neneh MacDouall-Gaye said the forum was organised to avail the diplomats, particularly those whose countrymen were pardoned, the opportunity to express their gratefulness and commend President Jammeh for exercising mercy on more than 300 prisoners, including those convicted of treason and murder.
As the occasion demanded, foreign diplomats at the occasion took turns, one after the other, to shower blessings on Babili Mansa for doing what the constitution has made provision for him to do.
The first of the diplomats to be called to the podium was UN resident coordinator Ade Mamonyane Lekeotje, who is also the UNDP resident representative in The Gambia.
She said the magnanimous gesture of President Jammeh will no doubt provide comfort to the families and relatives of the pardoned prisoners.
“The decision has been well-received in several quarters,” she said, while calling on the Gambia government to seek prompt resolution in the cases of other detainees.
Esther Audu, Nigerian ambassador to The Gambia, who is also the dean of the diplomatic and consular corps, said all other African country leaders should learn good leadership by emulating the Gambian leader.
She said that at least 11 Nigerians were among those released, and the government and the people of Nigeria are “very grateful” to the President of The Gambia.
Mrs Audu said: “As a leader, when you take sensitive decisions like this [pardoning prisoners en mass], you also require prayers. I want to assure the President of my prayers, Nigeria’s prayers and the prayers of all the diplomatic community because he has done what none of us has imagined in the past.”
The Nigerian diplomat said President Yahya Jammeh has done his part; it is now left for the diplomatic community to do and play their own part.
The Senegalese ambassador, Professor Saliou Ndiaye, said the spirit of forgiving is a leadership quality of the African tradition.
It is also part of the Islamic religion as Allah says, ‘before thanking me, you have to thank those who do well to you’, the ambassador said.
Prof Ndiaye said 27 Senegalese prisoners were pardoned, for which he thanked the Gambian leader for his mercy, on behalf of the pardoned prisoners, the Senegalese community in The Gambia, and the Senegalese authorities.
The representative of the Sierra Leonean government to The Gambia, Ambassador Sulayman Daramy, expressed “very sincere appreciation” to the President of The Gambia for his wonderful and kind gesture of releasing prisoners.
“I want to say that Sierra Leoneans are not only grateful to the president, but also want to assure him that those in The Gambia will remain to be law-abiding,” he said.
Ambassador Daramy also said Sierra Leone and The Gambia “are intricately connected” and that Sierra Leoneans would continue to maintain and uphold the peace in The Gambia.
At least one Sierra Leonean prisoner was pardoned.
“Unfortunately though, we want a little more. We have five prisoners here and I would want to appeal to the President and the government to consider the case of those current detainees,” the Sierra Leonean diplomat said.
The US Charge d’Affaires, Joseph Stafford, said the American government has taken note and responded positively to the initiative of President Jammeh.
He said the US is particularly delighted about the release of the Nigeria-American, Joseph Wowo, the former chief justice of The Gambia.
The Venezuelan ambassador Eduardo Medina Rubio, and Mauritanian ambassador Cheikh Ahmad Ould Sidi Ahmad, received four and two countrymen respectively thanks to the Gambian leader’s pardoning of inmates. Just like the other ambassadors, they also thanked President Jammeh for the gesture.
The Gambia’s foreign affairs minister, Neneh MacDouall-Gaye, said President Jammeh’s pardoning of more than 300 prisoners is a demonstration of his strong belief in Allah, compassion and magnanimity.
She said as a government, they are still talking about the President’s prerogative of mercy because it is “unprecedented”.
“We do hear prerogative of mercies; it does happen everywhere annually, but when it happens, very few criminals with very minor offences are released. Never have we heard of a mercy of over 300 prisoners. So we need to talk about it,” the foreign minister said.
“We will talk about it because it brought in a new dispensation in our political landscape. We will talk about it because it is Godly; because Allah asks us to forgive one another. We will talk about it because it has also brought in a new page in our history, and in our relationship. We will talk about it because it is such a goodwill gesture to our development partners as well,” she added.
Minister MacDouall-Gaye said all the talk about the human rights situation in The Gambia now would rest, as people who had been fairly tried and convicted by the law were pardoned by the Gambian leader because of his love for humanity.