The President of the United Nations Human Rights Council has nominated former Minister of Justice Mama Fatma Singhateh as the Special Rapporteur on the ‘sale and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, child pornography and other child sexual abuse material’. The president said her nomination of Madam Singhateh came after having consultations with stakeholders and after careful considerations of their views and in view of the expertise and experience of the candidate.
Clearly the UN Human Rights Council President did not consult with Gambian stakeholders especially those of us in the civil society. If she did we would have given her our views which would be that Mama is unqualified to handle this position. She lacks the moral standing to claim protection of children.
Secondly Mama has no track record of standing up for children even though she was the Chair of Child Protection Alliance at one point. She has never dedicated her time and expertise to freely and openly defend children either by protesting or going to court or using her powerful positions within the government to put a stop to abuse of children in this country.
Indeed Mama Fatima Singhateh may have the academic qualification as a lawyer but indeed she did not stand up for children. When in 2013/14 to 2015/17 she was the Minister of Justice it was at that time Yaya Jammeh was raping and sexually abusing Gambian girls. She never stopped the tyrant from abusing girls in anyway.
Apart from that in her entire career as a judge as well as minister she did not serve the cause of human rights in general in this country. Under her watch several Gambians were illegally arrested and detained and imprisoned. She failed to prevent the abuse of the rule of law by the Government especially by Dictator Yaya Jammeh who illegally and unconstitutionally declated the country an ‘Islamic Republic in 2015. Hence it is indeed scandalous that Mama could be identified as a champion to promote the cause of children at such high global level.
The UN Human Rights Council did not consult Gambian stakeholders otherwise they would have obtained the correct and proper perspective of this candidate. Mama lacks the moral standing to represent children when she has failed them at a time she was in the right position to protect them.
This nomination will only serve her interest in getting decent incentives and high status but it would be a betrayal of Gambian children and human rights in general.
The position of a UN Special Rapporteur is a very heavy responsibility that must not just look at mere academic qualification. It must also look at the track record of the candidate to determine if she or he indeed had dedicated even a small part of her or his life to the service for the cause of that issue or population to report on.
Mama was a minister under a government that was notorious for child abuse in all its forms. Hence when it comes to the Gambia and especially during the period when she was a key duty bearer it is obvious that Mama, as the Special Rapporteur will not be fair and objective in assessing and analysing that period. For that matter she cannot be a Special Rapporteur for such a sector of the population.
I condemn this nomination with all of my strength.
For the cause of children in the Gambia and around the world.
By Madi Jobarteh