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OIC Secretariat Boss Unapologetic About Gambia’s ‘Deferment’ of 2019 OIC Hosting

Since The Chronicle broke the news last weekend that The Gambia would no longer host the 2019 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit, social media has been inundated with angry reactions from Gambians who were disappointed.

On Tuesday, the government came out for the first time to announce that it has deferred the hosting of the Summit to 2022, blaming limited time available to have the needed infrastructure to host the event.

For the Chief Executive Officer of the OIC Secretariat in Banjul, there’s no apology for the decision to defer the Summit. Wednesday at a press conference at the Secretariat, Lamin J.K. Sanneh said The Gambia is not the first country to defer the hosting of the OIC Summit, citing Senegal, Pakistan and Egypt as examples of countries where a similar decision took place.

“Change of date is not new within the history of the OIC and as far as matters stand, Pakistan has changed dates from 1972 to 1974, Saudi Arabia from 1975 to 1981 after a six-year delay, Senegal has changed dates too as the summit that was planned to be hosted in 1990 was deferred to 1991, as well the 2006 conference that was also deferred to 2008, and notwithstanding Egypt has also changed dates from 2011 to 2013,” Sanneh told journalists.

OIC delegation meeting with Gambia authorities in Banjul in February 2018

According to him, the OIC Secretariat made its decision to defer the 2019 summit to 2022 based on the facts before hand and in the best interest of the country.

“I want to be very clear that the reason the OIC Secretariat has been created is to mobilize resources and build the infrastructure because The Gambia has no money to host this Summit and there is nothing wrong with this. I don’t think we will regret to say we are not ready. We love this country and we will do our best for this country. We will not be rushed to hosting a summit that will taint the image of this country,” Sanneh said.

“The cost of operation for the Secretariat per annum is about $600,000, including the resource mobilizer that is fully paid by the Secretariat which also includes various trainings organized by this office. We sent about 1,200 security personnel on trainings both here and outside and the Secretariat foot all the cost, including the payment of trainers from Turkey.”

According to Sanneh, the Secretariat has mobilized $100 million for road construction, $10.5 million for the airport VVIP building and lounge, $10 million for electricity and $22.5 million for water. Sanneh said Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and the Islamic Development Bank are the main funders of the OIC Secretariat in Banjul.

Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara during a Kuwaiti meeting ©OIC Secretariat Gambia

“Let me make it clear that the funds for running this OIC Banjul office are at no cost to the government.”

Sanneh denied reports that The Gambia made a deal with Saudi Arabia for the rich Arab state to host the Summit this year instead of Banjul.

“There was no deal. I traveled with the Foreign Minister and I was with him at every meeting about the OIC, and I can tell you there was no deal. That’s a non-starter,” he said.

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