By Abdoulie Nget in Kressbronn, Germany
For Prof. Avv. Francesco Cristina di Santannera, Honorary Counsellor of Gambia in Milan, the election of President Adama Barrow as the head of state in last presidential elections was a blessing in disguise.
My Francesco was speaking in an exclusive interview held at his office in 20122 Via Visconti di Modrone, 4 in Milan, Italy.
“The Gambian people acted maturely in the way and manner in which they handled the election. Gambians are friendly, open minded and tolerant but not stupid. All countries around the world belong to the people and not the president, you serve their purpose well as a leader or they simply vote you out. People can accept wrong things occasionally but not in continual basis, he said.
“Barrow’s election was the right choice made by the Gambians electorate. The country came at a time that it needs not just a new leadership, but a leader that is from a civil life, and they find that in Barrow. He was a member of the UDP but was much known as a real estate businessman than a politician. They understood he is a good and genuine person and has the development of the great country at heart,” he noted.
Although, Barrow was backed by eight party coalition, with an agreement to serve for three years if he wins as an independent candidate, he said the MOU was a mistake at first place.
“In any country, the constitution is the foundation of any rule of law and if it states five years as term limit it should remain as stipulated in the constitution. Unless it’s amended with the approval of the National Assembly members it should remain five and Gambian politicians and people should have that respected,” he clarified.
Newly Found Freedom
On the newly found democracy, he said the new Gambia as we all call it is a free place for everyone now, people express themselves freely. “They are critical to politicians and even the president which is a good sign and that’s democracy. Freedom is good but it goes with responsibility, people can enjoy the newly found freedom but they should be very responsible and respect the rule of law”, he added.
Adding that the expectations are very high but they should apply a little patience and allow the president to work toward developing the country. Even magician can’t do a thing over night they need time and so does President Barrow. He took over leadership of the country when the coffers were emptied by for president Jammeh, he noted.
He urges the citizens of the country especially the youths to help support the leadership by going to work, and that one should always ask him-herself what they can do for the country and not the other way around.
Development projects cannot reach each and every Gambian at a time but bit by bit it will come, he said.
He remarked, “For Barrow, he should put the interest of the country at heart and act towards developing it with the support of his cabinet and the population”.
Migration became an issue affecting the world in general and Gambia is of no exception. In Italy alone there are over 40 thousands Gambians most of them youths. Up to date no one has been deported from Italy to The Gambia. The Italian authorities provide free education for the underage migrants with a good living condition, he said.
“For age migrants they can find a mini or full time jobs to start with, but the job market is not that convincing in Italy even some Italians are looking for one. It is definitely not easy, but what I will say is that, you can stay in this country so long as you want but stay away from crime and it’s related. Because you can’t be protected if you are found wanting by the law.
If any migrant is with the will to go back home my office will help arrange your trip back if contacted.”
The Gambia also needs youth workers after losing about hundreds of thousands youth to European countries like Italy, Spain, Germany, England and others. The country risk having less man power in the next five to ten years if the trend continues like it is already.
Most of the migrants in Europe have learned new trades and skills like carpentry, plumbing electric among others, and they could be useful if they go back home, Mr. Francesco noted.
“I have engaged with the authorities that if anyone should be repatriated in the future, he or she should be given some money to start a new life while they are home. These monies can be used to either pay school fees or start a business.
That was just to set the foundation but any concrete agreement will have to be finalized by the foreign ministries of Gambia and Italy.”
“I receive 40 to 50 Gambians in my office through email, calls and visits on a daily basis and I work so hard with my staffs to provide needed documents in three to four working days. This is the fastest time possible to work on their documents, which other consulates don’t, as it takes them weeks or months to do so.”
The Government of The Gambia gives support to the office in the form of advice but they are not paying me and my staffs, as it was agreed during Sir Dawda Jawara’s time over 30 years ago, he added.
“I think now is the time for the giver to think of making the office a flag embassy, as the job we do here is at a level of embassy,” he urges.
In conclusion he mentioned that there are challenges when it comes to dealing with the Italian authorities sometimes just because the office is a consulate. He added, “Though they deal with me based on personal trust and relationship”.
“I could say my relationship with the Italians on Gambian issues are based on trust.”