Ambassador to the United States from The Gambia: Who Is Sheikh Omar Faye?

Sunday, January 17, 2016
Sheikh Omar Faye

Sheikh Omar Faye, who had been serving as chargé d’affaires at The Gambia’s embassy to the United States since April 1, 2014, officially became his country’s ambassador when he presented his credentials to President Barack Obama on Aug. 3, 2015.


Faye was born January 10, 1960, in Banjul, The Gambia’s capital, to Ajaratou Ramatoulie Tambedou and Alhagi Tijan Faye. His grandfather, also named Sheikh Omar Faye, was an Islamic scholar and was involved in politics in the early years of the country. The younger Faye went to primary school at Windley School at Half Die and secondary school at Crab Island Junior Secondary and then St. Augustine’s High School, which Faye attended on a sports scholarship before graduating in 1979. At St. Augustine’s, Faye participated in football, basketball, volleyball, rugby, and track, which is where he made a name for himself. For a time, Faye held the Gambian record in the 100 and 200 meters and he competed internationally, even representing his country at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as the Gambian team captain. Faye competed in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 4x100-meter relay. In addition, he played rugby for the Gambian national team. For two years beginning in 1981, Faye was a tutor at the Gambian Muslim High School.


Faye went into the Gambian National Army in 1983 and became a cadet officer that year. The following year, he was sent to Sandhurst, Britain’s military academy, to train for two years. Later in his career, Faye also trained at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. One of his postings was in a peacekeeping force in Liberia.


Faye left the army in 1994, about the time it staged a coup installing Yahya Jammeh as the country’s leader. Faye ended up in Atlanta, Georgia, where, some sources say, he sought asylum. He worked as a security supervisor and utility-line locator in the United States.


Faye returned to The Gambia from the United States in 2005 and was named Director of Information in the office of President Jammeh. The following year, Faye was named Minister of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs. He remained in that post about a year until he was sent to Mauritania as deputy chief of mission in The Gambia’s embassy there. He remained there until 2014, when he was sent to Washington.


Faye is married. He speaks Wolof, Mandinka, and English.

-Steve Straehley


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