It was a rough weekend for Gambia’s First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow. She never made it to the Fatu’s show Award ceremony, in which her Sierra Leonean counterpart Fatima Jabbi Bio was the Chief Guest of honor. Mrs. Barrow’s absence at the Award Ceremony was a subject of gossip in town. She also did not meet with Mrs. Bio, during her trip to The Gambia. Mrs. Bio has strong ties with The Gambia. Fatima’s Dad is a Gambian. GambianFirst Lady Barrow calls Mrs. Bio “my Gambian sister.”
Mrs. Barrow last year traveled to Freetown to witness Mrs. Bio’s conference to end female circumcision. Ideally, one would have expected that if she is in town, Mrs. Barrow would have welcomed her at the airport and accord her some sort of reception. But that never happens.
Over the weekend, Mrs. Bio was engaged in what I was told a lecture session at the University of The Gambia. She was the guest of Ismaila Ceesay, a political science lecturer at the UTG.
Fatima Jabbi was partly raised in The Gambia. She is a close friend of Fatou Camara, the owner of Fatu Network. She was conferred with an award.
It is not clear whether Mrs. Bio is in speaking terms with Fatoumatta Bah Barrow.
During her visit to The Gambia, the former actress Mrs. Bio also visited Mrs. Barrow’s husband President Adama Barrow. She told reporters that she was “Sierra Leone’s Envoy to The Gambia” and as such she was obligated to take up certain issues of concern affecting the Sierra Leonean community in The Gambia.
Sierra Leone has an Ambassador in The Gambia. But Mrs. Bio claimed that because of her close ties with The Gambia, she was President Julius Maada Bio’s envoy. Interesting!
Mrs. Bio told reporters that she had raised the issue of school fees with President Barrow during her meeting with him. She claimed that the Sierra Leonean community in The Gambia had complained to her of being charged an exorbitant school fee. That the tuition fees that Sierra Leonean students are paying is higher compared to what Gambian students are paying. She wanted President Barrow to look into the matter.
Mrs. Bio also said she had also discussed the issue of Residential Permits being imposed on Sierra Leoneans by The Gambian government. She said Nigerians and Sierra Leoneans are required to pay Residential Permits in The Gambia, while Gambians living in Sierra Leonean are not being subjected to that kind of treatment. She said President Barrow has promised to look into the matter.
While she was leaving the State House, First Lady Barrow wasn’t around to see her off. She came in with some people and left quietly.
It appears that President Bio’s wife was in Banjul to outshine the Sierra Leonean Ambassador. The issues she raised with President Barrow, could have been handled by the Sierra Leonean Ambassador. It was a diplomatic mess for Bio’s wife to use her presence in Banjul to undercut the Sierra Leonean Ambassador.
Analysts also believe that she was out to settle scores with First Lady Fatoumatta Bah Barrow. She wanted to make her look small. Mrs. Barrow had apparently snubbed her during her trip. She refused to see her.
Mrs. Bio’s trip had caused political rift in the country. Supporters of Mrs. Barrow felt that she was sidelined. They spent hours on Facebook over the weekend posting her pictures to make her look good.
The supporters of Ousainou Darboe’s United Democratic Party (UDP) went online mocking Mrs. Barrow. They hailed praises for Mrs. Bio. Their party Leader Ousainou Darboe was at the center of the award ceremony. He was in attendance.
The beef between the two first ladies should be squashed. It is shameful that some folks are bent on dividing the two.