Written by Alieu Khan

Things are not okay for the Organization of Gambians in Stockholm (OGIS).  After a recently held general meeting, that saw Gambians at each other’s throats, the organization has now been left with two chairpersons. According to a former member of the organization, this is unprecedented in the history of OGIS. 

Some members of the Gambian community in Stockholm have called on the incumbent chairperson, Mariam Cole, to concede and hand over power to Louie Mbegu sagnia who was controversially identified to take over. 

Mariam’s supporters disclosed to What’s On –Gambia that she is the legitimate chairperson. One of them said; “They want to force her out of power without any genuine reason.” 

In this exclusive interview, Mariam tells us more about the impasse; 

 

What’s On – Gambia: Can you tell us little about yourself and your educational background? 

Mariam: I am 27 years old. I was born in Banjul and moved to London, England when I was eight years old. I migrated to Sweden in 1998 at the age of 12. 

I have a degree in Political Science and Administration of Justice from the University of Hawaii, USA. I currently live in Stockholm and work as a teacher and personal assistant. 


When did you become a registered member of OGIS? 

In OGIS, we have two sorts of membership, individual and family and my family has been a member since I was a kid. 


How did you come to the decision to contest for the OGIS chairpersonship? 

Actually, I never contested for the OGIS chairpersonship. In the fall of 2011, I was at the OGIS general meeting and Majula Darbo and Louie Mbegu (current rival chairperson) were nominated for the position. Both of them declined and that was how I stepped in to fill the gap. 


How would you describe the first Gambian Cultural Week that you organized? 

The first Cultural Week that I organized together with a handful of volunteers was a success. When I was chosen as chairperson for OGIS there was no functioning executive and I was compelled to look for volunteers to help me out.

My first Cultural Week was memorable, despite having some people who were bend on sabotaging our efforts. 


According to your opponents more than 70,000kr went missing and you were involved in visa fraud. What's your response to that? 

I cannot imagine where these allegations are coming from, it baffles me. Visa fraud for what? Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me because I know the truth and I have nothing to hide. It saddens me that mature members of my Gambian community would make such allegations. 

Everything that I and my volunteers do for OGIS is recorded and accounted for, as it should for any organization. This information is available for all our members to see.

 

But the opponents are claiming that it's you and your family that are solely running the affairs of OGIS? 

OGIS is an organization where the members decide. As chairperson, I don’t make individual decisions. I run the affairs of the organization together with my team of volunteers. One of the volunteers is my relative and I see nothing wrong with that. She was involved with OGIS even before I returned to Sweden after my studies in the US.

 

Are you still the chairperson? 

Yes, my two-year-term will end in the fall of 2013.

 

Why is Louie Mbengu claiming to be the new chairperson? 

I do not know why Louie Mbegu is making this claim. He was present when I was selected in the fall of 2011. And I stepped in because he declined the position and now I don’t know why the push and pull.

 

What is preventing you from not stepping down? 

Why should I step down? My mandate period, as written in the constitution, is not yet finished.

 

The Gambian community is known to be one of the most disunited immigrant communities in Sweden. What do you think is responsible for this? 

I do not have the answer to this question but we can all take an educated guess as to why this is.

 

Will there be any cultural week this summer? 

We were planning a fantastic cultural week this summer but we decided to cancel it because we have some members of the community who are grieving. It will be very inappropriate to hold a cultural week at this difficult time. 

There will be plenty of time to celebrate in the future.

 

Thank you for your time. 

 

You are welcome!