Omar Bah, executive director of the Refugee Dream Center here in Rhode Island, says he has been threatened by a Gambian diplomat working at the Gambian Embassy at the United Nations. Bah and his family were recently issued a visa by the Gambian mission at the United Nations to visit his native country after living in exile for many years in the United States. Bah’s family is in Gambia now, Bah plans to join them there in a few weeks.
Since coming to Rhode Island as political refugees from Gambia, Bah has established himself as a fearless activist for the refugee community, founding the Refugee Dream Center and most recently receiving the Red Bandana Award for his work. He is also a friend.
Gambian First Secretary Isatou Badjie contacted Bah via Facebook to inform him that she was aware of Bah’s pending trip to Banjul, Gambia with his family. Bah had discussed Badjie’s recent appointment to the position of First Secretary at the Gambian Mission at the United Nations on Freedom Radio Gambia. Bah apparently angered Badjie when he quoted a Facebook post made by Badjie in which she lambasted the recently elected President Adama Barrow and his government, calling them names. This was a day after dictator President Yahya Jammeh left Gambia for Equatorial Guinea. Badjie, the daughter of Dembo Badjie, a former Gambian Ambassador to India, was unhappy with the change in government, according to Bah.
Since taking power in Gambia President Barrow has been seen as a human rights champion, allowing for freedom of the press and releasing 171 political prisoners jailed under Jammeh. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission is being established to recompense victims of Jammeh’s regime as well.
“I have just been informed that you have been the mouth piece of the devil spewing lies and envy on Freedom Radio against me and my family in this holy month of Ramadan. [Do you h]ave no shame and no fear speaking ill of people you know nothing about? Or you think you can silen[ce] me or kill my spirit by your satanic ways? Well you thought wrong,” Badjie wrote in a Facebook message to Bah. “I am not the average Gambian you will destroy and succeed with. I have seen that you are to be with your family in Gambia soon…”
Before being appointed by the Barrow government to serve as First Secretary Badjie was working at Gambia’s Foreign Ministry under the President Jammeh.
Badjie “used her position at the Gambian mission at the United Nations to spy on the purportedly planned trip to Gambia by me and my family,” said Bah, “I applied for a visa through the Gambian mission at the United Nations. She issued such threats simply because I criticized this government.
“I will follow appropriate rightful action and will let the public know in due course. America is a country of laws. So this act of lawlessness and threats to people’s lives can occur in Gambia but certainly not in America.”
Bah said he never responded to Badjie’s Facebook message. Bah maintains that Badjie’s conduct amounts to threatening him and his family, Bah also maintains that Badjie used her position to spy on him and his family, in order to learn about his trip.
“My family arrived in Gambia this past Saturday. If anything happens to them, I will hold this government responsible,” said Bah, “I will join them in few weeks. Nobody can prevent me from visiting my native country, the Gambia.”
The Freedom Newspaper could not reach Isatou Badjie for comment. The Freedom Newspaper also reached out to the Gambian Ambassador to the United Nations, Momodou Tangara, for comment during the weekend, but he was indisposed.
[This post was rewritten from this piece at the Freedom Newspaper, with the permission of the publisher, Ma Nderry.]