Barely a month after the UN Secretary General Ban Ki- Moon sent Dr. Chambas as a special envoy to Gambia West Africa to investigate the December 30th, alleged failed coup; And after an open bias by Chambas which attracted wide spread condemnation from Gambian dissidents, the UN is sending another higher level special envoy to the country. This time the UN is dispatching United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to visit Banjul on 4 February 2015 for an audience with the country’s leader Yahya Jammeh, according to a press statement from the UNDP.
As Under-Secretary-General and head of the Department of Political Affairs, Mr Jeffrey Feltman is a special adviser to the Secretary-General on peace and security issues globally. He also oversees good governance initiatives and field-based political missions for peacemaking, preventive diplomacy and peace-building activities in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Mr. Feltman also oversees the United Nations electoral assistance which is provided to dozens of member states each year.
Most significantly, Mr Feltman served for decades in the United States Foreign Service, focused especially on the Middle East and North Africa. Last he held the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs among other responsibilities. Feltman also served as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon, and held earlier diplomatic postings in Baghdad, Tunis, Tel Aviv and Port-au-Prince, as well as with responsibility for coordinating US assistance to countries of Eastern and Central Europe.
Mr. Feltman’s trip to Banjul three weeks after Mr. Chambas’ failed trip is very significant and tells about the seriousness the United Nation is attaching to the political situation in the Gambia. If the message was made mucky by Dr. Chambas’ one sided reaction, this other envoy appears to send a different signal that the United Nations is not prepared to sit idly and watch another high risk nation slide into further chaos. The fact that Mr. Feltman is also responsible for Good governance, electoral assistance and preventative diplomacy indicates a sign of serious efforts the UN is prepare to do to engage the authorities in Banjul.
Gambian dissidents and political opposition are somewhat optimistic that these trips by the UN are designed to put pressure on the Jammeh government to allow political reform and lay down a foundation for peaceful fair and free elections leading to peaceful political transition. Many pundits expect Gambia’s political opposition leadership to seize these moments and also demand to meet with the UN Under Secretary. At the very least they are a government in waiting and deserves to be heard by any credible envoy interested in finding a solution to the political stalemate in Banjul.
As insinuated by this reporter before, the events of December 30th, despite all the casualties and massive arrests of innocent citizens, this might just be the beginning of serious engagement with the brutal regime in Banjul to force political reform which eventually will prevent citizens from taking up arms. As the saying goes everything happens for a reason and these signs are at the very least encouraging. Mr. Feltman’s visit to Banjul certainly gives more hope than that of Dr. Chambas. Gainako will keenly follow these developments and will update readers on the substance or lack thereof of the UN mission.
By Demba Baldeh