Public Service Career (Gambia Government): Following completion of his studies in Nigeria, BB Dabo returned to The Gambia to serve his country. He served in Administrative Offices in Provincial Administration; he worked from 1967–1970 as Assistant Commissioner in Basse (Upper River Region) and in Kerewan (North Bank Region) which were starting points for the administrative cadre. These postings provided an opportunity to appreciate the ethnic diversity of the Gambian Nation, the wealth in this diversity and how these groups live together in harmony. He also learnt firsthand the challenges facing our rural communities- their aspirations and their fears in this fast changing world. These memories continued to stay with him throughout his career in the public services and they explain why he totally rejects tribal politics and his strong emphasis on investing in rural areas to help improve their living conditions.
From Provincial Administration, BB Dabo was transferred to the office of the then Prime Minister, Sir Dawda K Jawara as Assistant Secretary. In 1970, BB Dabo was moved to the Foreign Office in Banjul where he also served as Assistant Secretary. He was later seconded by The Gambia Government to the Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat in Banjul where he served as Director, Economic & Technical Cooperation. After a successful completion of his tour at the Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat, he was moved to The Gambia Commercial and Development Bank, as Commercial Manager (1974-1979). There are many in the Gambian Business community who fervently remember BB Dabo’s tenure at the Gambia Commercial and Development Bank because of his profound understanding of the needs of indigenous Gambia business at the time and his strong commitment to see Gambian businesses grow and realise their full potentials. BB Dabo wanted every Gambian businessman and businesswoman to succeed and he believed that to achieve this, local businesses must be supported by professional advice, access to credit and professional backup support. Under his leadership and direction, the Bank provided these support services and the results were the quantum leap in the number of successful indigenous business that grew from very modest beginnings to become bigtime traders, supplying goods to the entire sub-region. This was a time when business boomed in The Gambia and many traders from the subregion came to The Gambia to do business and transported all types of goods in large quantities to their countries.
In 1979, BB Dabo was appointed Gambia’s Ambassador to Senegal, which marked a very important stage in his career and a historical moment for The Gambian state, to have someone of his calibre as Ambassador in Senegal at that time. For, only two years into his duty as Gambian Ambassador in Senegal, the so-called revolutionary gang of Kukoi Samba Sanyang and his bunch of criminals violated the peace and tranquility that Gambians knew since independence by attempting a coup d’état in 1981. Sir Dawda who was at the time in United Kingdom attending the wedding of Prince Charles, immediately contacted BB Dabo to lead negotiations with the Senegalese government to send troops to The Gambia to put down the insurrection and put an end to anarchy. With his already perfected diplomatic skills, fluency in French and patriotic desire to see The Gambia return to normalcy, BB Dabo successfully convinced the Senegalese government to send troops to The Gambia to stop the lawlessness that was happening in the country. In the meantime, according to estimates, Kukoi and his gang inflicted mayhem on innocent Gambian civilians killing at least 1,000 people and, inflicted untold economic damages to the country, before they were driven out. Very often, only few are aware of the tremendous effort deployed outside the country to bring about the desired change in a given situation in the country. The point must be made that it was largely through his diplomatic skills and efforts that BB Dabo, as Ambassador in Senegal, was able to convince the Senegalese to intervene and restore democracy and rule of law in The Gambia in 1981. This fact helps to underscore the important role outside forces either as individuals or groups can contribute to the restoration of democratic order in a country which only a select few may be aware of.
Public Service (United Nations): BB Dabo also served the International Community for nearly twelve years at the United Nations. His assignments at the United Nations, were primarily focused on Conflict Prevention and/or Conflict Resolution through mediation and/or political negotiations. BB Dabo served the United Nations very well and in many capacities of which, only a few will be highlighted here:
- October 2000 through July 2003, BB Dabo served as Senior Political Adviser to the UN Secretary General. In this capacity, BB Dabo was deeply involved in bringing peace to a long troubled African country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This work involved the building of the institutions of DRC in preparation for the return of that country first, through Transitional Governance and then, the establishment of Democratic Order;
- February 2004 to September 2007, BB Dabo served as Chief of Staff to UN Mission on Ethiopia & Eritrea. It will be remembered that Ethiopia and Eritrea had very long and bloody conflict and therefore, this mission was very complex and needed skillful diplomacy to help resolve their troubles. The work involved mediating and persuading both parties to respect the agreement they signed to stop fighting and, also to give support to both the Eritrean and Ethiopian delegations to negotiate in good faith to arrive at a permanent settlement which, they eventually did.
- September 2007 to September 2009, BB Dabo served as Chief of Staff and Liaison Officer of UN Mission to Western Sahara, MINURSO. The state of Western Sahara has been a thorny issue for the African Union (AU), United Nations and more specifically for North-West Africa. Morocco’s claim to this piece of land is not acceptable to the people who inhabit it, and who are represented by the POLISARIO Front, nor the AU or even the UN. The conflict has been going on for decades and BB Dabo and his team were to bring Morocco and the POLISARIO Front to the negotiation table to help resolve the conflict. These types of conflicts resolutions require sound judgement and seasoned diplomacy, a deep understanding of the historical and national contexts of the issues involved. Indeed, the assignment reflected the UN Secretary General’s confidence in BB Dabo’s capabilities and diplomatic skills.
- May 2010 to July 2011, BB Dabo served as Senior Political Adviser/Negotiations for Republic of Guinea/Conakry. After the military takeover in Guinea/Conakry, the country was plunged into chaos for a long time and BB Dabo was assigned as Senior Political Adviser to the UN Political Affairs Department to find a negotiated solution to the problem.
Overall, there is no doubt about the complexities and difficulties these different conflicts presented, yet BB Dabo with his excellent capacity to lead and work with others as a team, succeeded in navigating their way through it all, thereby contribute to finding a lasting peace to the people concerned and, to the World at large.
Communication Cell, Gambia For All (GFA)
Ma-Jonka House, Block 6a, Kanifing Estate
September 6, 2021.