The tiny West African country of the Gambia has received a massive international coverage and has been under a spotlight after the elections held on the first day of December 2016. With a 59% turnout, Adama Barrow, a 51-year-old real estate developer, won the election with 43.3% of the votes.
However, under the international pressure and finally, the invasion of ECOWAS land troops president Jammeh resigned. Mr. Barrow was sworn into office on January 19 in Senegal and returned to the Gambia on January 26.
President Barrow was welcomed with ovations in his homeland. Being the Gambia’s first democratically elected president, his excellency took the mandate to establish democracy and transparency to the country. He vows to bring reconciliation and unite the polarized Gambia.
In his first week, he already made a couple of reforms some of which were mentioned during his first press conference.
Firstly, the country will no longer be an Islamic Republic like Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mauritania. More importantly, for the sake of efficiency, the country will restore a five-day working week, as opposed to the four-day working week established by Jammeh for religious purposes.
Furthermore, president Barrow promised reforms in the military. A correspondent from AFP was fascinated by the expertise of the Senegalese troops that were present in the Gambia during the one-month transition crisis. She asked if the Gambian military will receive training by western experts similarly to their neighbors. Barrow said that the army will get the best training by experts from countries willing to cooperate with them. The military plays an important role in the country since the tiny Gambia has had the issue of terrorist organizations and rebels spread throughout the countryside.
The Barrow administration took the mandate to establish democracy in the Gambia. According to the Associated Press, Barrow promised to release the political prisoners. “Political prisoners will be released, all of them. If it’s politics, you are released,” said the newly elected president.During the press conference, he also told the journalists that the victims of the Jammeh regime will receive proper compensation.
Additionally, Barrow promised that the Gambia is going to be “media friendly” as compared to the severe restrictions on journalists during his predecessors’ rules.
Moreover, although it is not required by the law, his excellency will oblige the members of his cabinet to declare their assets for the sake of transparency.
Finally, Barrow told the journalists that one of the main goals of the new administration will be fighting corruption. The nature of the anti-corruption committees, however, remained vague as he promised to discuss it in a week.
Nevertheless, the press-conference posed some issues that are worth addressing.
The president avoided several important questions throughout the meeting with the press.
Barrow has inherited the government with an “empty treasury,” and several journalists asked what the new administration was going to deal with the issue. Again, his response was that he would get the information in a week.
In addition, he seeks to reform the constitution through a temporary overhaul and later amendments instead of writing a new constitution from scratch. This statement called a general dissatisfaction in the Gambian public.
Lastly, Barrow was unable to provide information on his strategies to improve the tourism in the country and avoided the question. Tourism plays an important role in the country and makes the 20% of the GDP. Many experts think that it has not nearly met its full potential and a great space for growth.
Adama Barrow is the Gambia’s first democratically elected president since its independence in 1965. The international community closely watches the first days of the new democracy and is willing to provide the aid that is needed. The new leader has brought hope to the Gambian people and his administration still has a long way to go.