Sources have confirmed to The Chronicle that after a series of meetings with Saudi authorities, The Gambia has given the authority to Saudi Arabia to host the summit.
According to sources, Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara led a Gambian delegation to Saudi Arabia about three months ago to discuss the issue with Saudi authorities.
The Gambia, according to a credible source in Saudi media circles, requested that Saudi fulfill part of the financial pledge it made earlier to help Banjul prepare for the summit, as part of the deal to allow Saudi to host the world’s biggest Islamic conference.
The Gambian delegation also asked the Saudis to vouch for The Gambia to host the 2021 OIC summit, according to the same source.
“The Gambia specifically requested $62 million from Saudi to help build a five star hotel and purchase VIP vehicles in preparation for the 2021 summit which Gambia is now hopeful it will host”, the source said. The Chronicle cannot independently confirm this.
Initially, Saudi had pledged to fund the construction of a hotel in The Gambia that would host the 1000 expected delegates for the summit.
This followed Banjul’s concern that there was a deficit in the supply of quality accommodation in the country.
According to the national OIC secretariat, the government has allocated 20 hectares of prime land along the coast and within the vicinity of the International Conference Center around Senegambia for the construction of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Hotel, a five star 400-bedroom hotel with 60 royal and presidential suites.
The Saudi funds were also meant to construct dual carriage 50km roads from the airport to the OIC hotspots, and to purchase 56 royal and presidential vehicles, 250 VIP cars for the senior officials and foreign ministers and five luxury coaches for OIC staff at a tune of $33.75m. These include Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs…
The issue of whether or not The Gambia would host the OIC Summit has been dominating media headlines in recent months. The government authorities and OIC Secretariat staff have on many occasions dismissed speculations and rumors that The Gambia would not host the event.
The Foreign Minister Tangara has confirmed to The Chronicle that The Gambia will no longer host the event, although he didn’t give any further details.
When asked about his alleged meeting with the Saudi authorities and Gambia’s requests to Saudi Arabia, he responded; “I am not aware of the information you are referring to. I led a delegation to the KSA as Special Envoy of the President. The message to His Majesty King Salman, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques was delivered to him. It was only meant for him.
Only those present during the audience are privy to the confidential message.
I will not by virtue of my function share the message with anyone but the one who sent me. Now any extrapolation will be mere speculation…”
So far, the only physical structure that got off the ground as part of preparations for the OIC summit is the $50 million International Conference Center donated to The Gambia by China. The center, located around Senegambia, is still under construction.
Last week, the Turkish National Police in collaboration with the Gambian OIC Secretariat concluded a two-week training for Gambian police on Public Order Tactical Applications as part of preparation for the OIC Summit in The Gambia.