By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Mamadou Tangara faced National Assembly members on Wednesday 6th September 2023 to answer questions relating to his Ministry and policies guiding their operations. One of the questions asked by Hon Alhagie Mbow for Upper Saloum requested for the Foreign Minister to update Parliament “if his Ministry has a Foreign Policy as well as a Foreign Service Regulation that guides them in their work?”
In response, Foreign Minister Tangara explained that “the Minister of Foreign Affairs has the overall mandate to implement the Foreign Policy objectives of The Gambia with the ultimate aim of promoting, safeguarding and achieving the countries national, political and socioeconomic interests”. He added that “currently, there is no codified document that contains The Gambia’s foreign policy as it is the case in some other countries. What exists is a customary foreign policy which has been in existence since the first republic. Over the years, our customary foreign policy was and is being pursued under the guiding principles of good neighbourliness, non-alignment, neutrality, promotion of human rights, mutual respect for the sovereign equality, independence, territorial integrity of states, the maintenance of international peace and security and the promotion of friendly relations among nations”.
According to Minister Tangara “the principles that guide The Gambia’s foreign policy are also reflective of the principles of the charter of both the United Nations and the African Union. Even at the United Nations, African Union etc. our pattern of voting on presented issues corresponds to our position on the said principles guiding our foreign policy. Furthermore, pronouncement from His Excellency the President on The Gambia’s Foreign Relations also determines and sets The Gambia’s foreign policy objectives”.
Turning his attention to the Foreign Service Regulations, Foreign Minister Tangara says “the second edition was revised in 2012 and the third has just been revised and finalised and is now awaiting circulation to Gambia missions abroad and other stakeholders in the country for their inputs before presenting to Cabinet for its validation and use. Together with a recently developed posting policy”.
Minister Tangara added that his Ministry plans to “introduce to this August Assembly a Foreign Service Bill which will further guide and strengthen the implementation of the Foreign Service regulations. There is also a plan to develop a recruitment policy, code of conduct, orientation manual, diplomatic handbook etc. that will complement other documents governing the Foreign Service”.
Plans to Introduce a Foreign Policy?
A subsequent question was asked by Hon Alhagie S. Darbo for Brikama North if the Foreign Ministry has any plan to formulate a foreign policy. To which the Foreign Minister first clarified that the country has a foreign policy, however, it is not codified which he says occurs in a number of countries. Hon Tangara explained that “in recent years the only major shift we have in The Gambia’s foreign policy is when The Gambia decided to recognise the One China Principle, apart from that we’ve been constant since the First Republic in terms of our dealing with the International Community”.
Minister Tangara made reference to The Gambia’s stance “when the crisis occurred in the Gulf and some countries took positions and withdrew their ambassadors in the state of Qatar, we decided to be friends with all and enemies of none because we believe that if brothers fight you try to bring them together if not the day that they reconcile you find yourself in a funny position. Unfortunately, and fortunately for us, many found themselves in that situation today. Even in the codified document, it’s not a full foreign policy we just enumerate the principles and I have a document from the first republic that has done that and we [have] been following that document”.
The member for Upper Nuimi, Hon Omar Darboe asked a similar question and for the Foreign Minister to state if it had any plans to codify the foreign policy in a single document. In response, Hon Tangara explained that he planned to have a “conclave with all the Ambassadors and Senior Diplomats from the First Republic to now and based on that” they will deliberate to decide if a codified document is needed. He added that “sometimes it’s not good to have all your strategies in a document because don’t forget that most diplomats their role also is to gather intelligence for their country”.
Disadvantages of a Codified Foreign Policy?
Nominated Member, Hon Kebba Lang Fofana asked the Foreign Minister to explain the advantages of having a foreign policy as opposed to having one. To this, Hon Tangara says “the advantage [of not having one] is that you are not bound by a document because foreign policies are not cast in stone. As I said you just put the guiding principles because even the mere decision of pronouncement anything can change”. Having a codified document places an onus on the country to go by that document explained the Hon Foreign Minister Tangara.