A former Gambian ambassador to the United States said President Yayah Jammeh might have severed relations with Iran to cover up his reported involvement with an arms shipment confiscated last week by Nigerian authorities.
Gambia Monday night gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
A statement issued by the Gambian foreign ministry said that "all government of the Gambia projects and programs, which were being implemented in cooperation with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been canceled."
The statement gave no reason for the action. All attempts to reach Gambian government officials were fruitless.
Essa Bokarr Sey, a former Gambian ambassador to the United States, told VOA evidence reported in the media suggests the arms seized in Nigeria were destined for The Gambia.
“The thing is there are three factors here. People order arms to protect their sovereignty, which is no crime. Sometimes you will order for re-exportation and that is where the question mark starts. Why would you do that?” he said.
Sey said Iran is not the first country that President Jammeh has used for his own purposes.
“There was a time when President Jammeh’s endless ways of doing things out of euphoria pushed him to a point where he named a whole avenue after Colonel (Muammar) Gaddafi (of Libya) because they were very close at that time. When relations between him and Muammar Gaddafi soured, he changed that very avenue back to its original name, which was a British name. So, Iran is not the first victim. Whenever there is a lot of noise and he feels scared and he has been unearthed and identified as somebody who was meeting behind the curtains, he would react in this way to clean himself up,”Sey said.
Sey said a preponderance of evidence in Nigerian and Gambian newspapers proved that the weapons confiscated in Nigeria were going to The Gambia.
“As far as reports are concerned, we have circumstantial evidence, in fact, documentary evidence because the journalists in Nigeria themselves wrote on their papers categorically saying that the containers were destined for The Gambia. Other Gambian papers wrote this, and I’m pretty sure that those editors understand what libel means. They will not pen these stories in their papers accusing the Gambian government with addresses confirming that this was destined for Gambia. So, what I am saying here is categorically clear that, as far as there are traces and evidences, definitely, (President) Jammeh is playing a card here to cover himself up. But, that is very late,” Sey said.