President Barrow needs urgent coaching in language, public diplomacy, insider perspective on global politics and the Gambia’s foreign policy. Also he needs guidance on his day to day symbiotic interaction with the mass media and Gambia`s foreign policy establishment, to be able to articulate issues with clarity on the global media.
It is futile to treat an appearance on an international mainstream broadcaster, like a Coalition or Tactical Alliance political rally in Tallinding or in Suduwol, Upper River Region. It is important to note that, the global audience is not composed of Coalition or Tactical Alliance adherents.
Globally, many do not even know about the Gambia at all. A section of the global community only knows about the Gambia as a popular tourist’s destination with beautiful sandy beaches along its small Atlantic coastline. In addition to that, the country is known as the home to Juffure, the reputed ancestral village of Kunta Kinte, the main character in Alex Haley’s well-known novel, Roots.
Equally, the country is known through the erratic behaviour of its former president Yahya Jammeh with one of the world’s longest title “His Excellency Babilimansa Sheikh Professor Doctor President” who made the Gambia a pariah state.
Jammeh`s claim to have pioneered a controversial “herbal” cure for HIV, which hundreds of Gambians have now undergone was another issue that put the country on global headlines.
The scheme has appalled global health campaigners, who pointed out that there is no proof that it works, and that it is potentially lethal because it requires patients to give up normal retro-viral treatments for up to a year.
For such an audience, there is need to weave the narrative of local politics in a global context to convince the international community and prospective investors on issues and show a minimum understanding of domestic policies and programmes consistent with international political standards.
Demonstrating knowledge of this sort should be the foundation to show the transformation agenda of The Gambia`s evolving democracy. Shun Yen Wei of CGTN is not GRTS` Fatou Janneh-Mbai, nor is she CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. You could not afford to answer simple basic questions on Gambia’s foreign policy and your trajectory was emotionally driven on an international broadcaster, as the President of the Republic of the Gambia.
You can only expect “politically correct” questions from folks who see you as a symbol of authority in their spheres of life. However, on mainstream broadcasters like CNN, CGTN, Al Jazeera or the BBC, especially if you are an African politician, your ability and clarity on issues of governance would be tested.
The global audience is remarkably different. The global audience sees Africa as the dustbin of all things “hotspots.” The other vital point to remember is that each international media house subscribes to different political philosophies as far as global politics is concerned. For that reason, CGTN`s editorial policies and guidelines are worlds apart with that of Aljazeera, BBC and CNN.
In domestic politics, words are used without being well measured. Politicians are most often condescending towards news anchors interviewing them. And, the average local journalist remains lazy. Also the passive and unsophisticated passive audience are happy to consume media texts that excite political inclinations.
Politicians mis-state facts, regurgitate half-truths and plain lies unhindered. Most often local audiences are swayed by misleading sound bites. In the international arena, a “semblance of credibility” is key to conventional practice. If you choose to remain disoriented and non-factual, such choice must withstand subsequent interrogation.
A key tool of art in international diplomacy is being economical with words and language. In global politics, choice of words in formal speech is important. Words should both be measured and effectively articulated. Measured language does the least harm to “credibility”, while delivering the desired message with a subtle but an effective punch.
The international media`s offensive should be left to experienced diplomats like Permanent secretary like Mr. Njoju Bah.
President Barrow and your government should watch recordings of Steffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy to Syria. From de Mistura, the man from Sugoi can learn a great deal about global politics and how to score diplomatic points.
Also Ousainaou Darboe should study Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari, the long serving Iranian diplomat and current Minister for Foreign Affairs. The man is credited with successfully negotiating the Iran nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries during the tenure of Barrack Obama’s administration.
The old man of Iranian diplomacy knows how to communicate effectively, to a global audience. Khonsari does not sink under pressure. He has little time for raw “on screen” emotions. His focus has always been, even under pressure, to deliver a believable message that reinforces Iran’s standing among the nations of the world.
Until then, President Adama Barrow’s new found hobby of global media “trotting” will do more harm than good. The Gambia government needs its best foot forward to assuage the international community. Raw sound bites may make an unpleasant situation even worse. Abrasive, emotional “sand paper” politics, more so from senior government functionaries, damages the standing of the country in the community of nations.