Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah: Sex Tourism Sanctioned in France but not in The Gambia

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By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

Last week a Press Conference was held at the Ministry of Tourism to address child sex tourism paedophile allegations against The Gambia published by British based tabloid newspaper The Sun. Present at the Press Conference was Radio France International (RFI) Journalist, Romain Chanson, who questioned Tourism Minister Hamat Bah, “it seems you want to control the narrative can we disagree with your definition of sex tourism in The Gambia because people are coming from abroad to have sex in The Gambia?”

Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah: From Thailand to France

In response to the French Journalist’s question, Minister Bah retorted “there is no sex tourism in The Gambia” to which Mr Chanson replied “yeah, according to you”. This did not go down well with the usually eccentric Politician and leader of the National Reconciliation Party who fired a question back to Mr Chanson saying “what is the international definition of sex tourism, tell me?” In response Mr Chanson replied “give it to me, I don’t know”. The increasingly loud voice of Minister Bah beamed to say “I am telling you it is where sex tourism is sanctioned, organized by the state and that’s not the case in the Gambia”.

In early 2018 The Gambia Government had to apologise to Thailand for Minister Bah’s statements warning tourist seeking sex to stay away from The Gambia and go to Thailand instead. In response The Gambia Government issued an apology via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, then led by United Democratic Party Leader, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe. The letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed “its heartfelt apologies to the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and extends assurances that measures will be put in place to prevent the re-occurrence of such an unfortunate incidence. The Ministry extends its profound assurances to the Government of Thailand that the remarks of the Minister are not to be construed as a reflection of the Government’s view on the Tourism Sector of Thailand.”

Just two years after that incident, Tourism Minister Hamat Bah turned his aim at French Journalist Mr Chanson asking him “do you have sex tourism in France?” to which Mr Chanson replied simply “yes”. Minister Bah went on to declare that “you have the red district because the state sanctions and license them you have the red district, you have the sex shops because they are licensed to do that, we don’t have them in Gambia, do you have a sex shop here, red district? Because the state doesn’t sanction it but in your country it is sanction, it is accepted, it is respected by the government and they allow it to happen it does not happen in The Gambia we do not sanction it therefore there is no sex tourism, if you tell me prostitution I will say yes, no red district in my country”.

Tourism Ministry Press Conference - Child Sex Tourism

Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah in tan African

Information Minister, Ebrima Sillah says international journalists engage in clandestine activities

According to Minister of Information Ebrima Sillah his “ministry gives accreditation to journalists that have identified themselves through letters coming from their institutions’ I mean if you say that you’re coming from the BBC we want to see the letter from your head of institution we see your passport we see your press card and then based on that” accreditation can be granted.

Minister Sillah went further to stress that a new trend he has observed “of late is people who are coming without identifying themselves they engage themselves into some clandestine work it is only when they leave and they publish the stories then we come to know. It is unfortunate sometimes is difficult to deal with that.”

Throughout the press conference at least three Cabinet Officials made reference about the impact of “people coming from outside”. Tourism Minister Hamat Bah said that “let’s not allow people coming from outside do bad things against us and then we try multiply them, you go everywhere in the world they protect their country and protect their interest, we can insult each other here  but that’s between us in our own country but we must not destroy our country”.

Spokesperson, Ebrima Sankareh “I almost fought with RFI Journalist over accreditation”

In a surprising revelation Government Spokesperson, Ebrima Sankareh, told the press that “Romain the French Radio France International correspondent can bear me witness the first day he came to my office we almost fought because I told him the letter he had wasn’t authenticated am not going to accept it he had to tell his bosses in France to send another letter I have to look at it, look at the date, look at everything. I said now we’re talking business, what happens in France should happen in The Gambia.”

According to Mr Sanakareh Gambian journalists should be careful of International Journalist and not fall prey to the psychology of colonialism. In his view “we should not just be giving people chance just because they look different. I could understand the psychology of colonialism sometimes people come before you and the way you think before you realise something very serious has happened so not long ago there was a case involving Al Jazeera and the BBC it was the same thing. People sometimes come to this country just because it’s a poor, third world country and they expect you to renege in the laws in the way they are enforce. Whereas if you go elsewhere, even next-door Senegal, they are very stringent in their rule of accreditation of Journalists.”

Tourism Ministry Press Conference - Child Sex Tourism

Spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh in Grey Suit on the left , Information Minister, Ebrima Sillah on the right in white haftan

Tourism Minister Hamat Bah “We have Introduced a Visa Free Regime”

According to Hamat Bah his Ministry has “introduced a Visa free regime for most countries. People to be able to come to the country and visit us because that’s what other countries have done right now your [French] citizens don’t require a Visa to come to the Gambia so you’re free to come and we want to enter your market so we do not want people to publish stories because they know Gambia is doing well they now use people who are unprofessional just to destroy our country because we are competing with them in the same market so we must understand that strategy as also believing in our country why should somebody use an unprofessional journalist to destroy our country for their own interest to develop their own industry.”

Moses Emmanuel Mendy Contributed to this article.

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