Gambia elects new President, ending 22 year long dictatorial rule

By Abhishek Kaushal

The President of Gambia, Adama Barrow’s first step as a president is admirable as he lives up to his promise of establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate the possible offences committed during the former president, Jemmeh’s dictatorial rule. The committee will be devised on the lines of the one formed by South Africa when apartheid ended in 1994.

Jemmeh’s Retribution

According to Mr. Abubacarr Tambadou, the Finance Minister of Gambia, a major part of the proposed committee’s role would include investigation of Jemmeh’s finances. It was confirmed that more than $11 mn of State funds went missing when Jemmeh left the state for Equatorial Guinea in January. The TRC will also investigate the five infamous cases against Jemmeh’s administration which involve crimes such as murder, violence and kidnapping of political rivals, journalists and an army chief. Barrow has ensured that the committee would seek to unravel the truth rather than take revenge against officials of Jemmeh’s administration.

The Fall of the Tyrant

The December elections in Gambia resulted in a defeat of the dictatorial ruler, Jammeh, after he assumed office 22 years ago, during the bloodless military coup of 1994. The results showed a shift in support on the part of young Gambian voters, from the self-acclaimed magical and miraculous dictator leader to an altogether fresh face.

Initially, Jemmah surprised many by accepting the defeat. He later retracted from his decision by deciding to contest the results in Supreme Court. He even threatened to kill the supporters of Adama Barrow, which led to the newly elected president fleeing the country.

The New President

Adama Barrow was born in 1965, the same year when his country regained independence from the British rule. He started his agency in 2006, having secured a certificate as a real estate agent from the UK. He even worked part-time as a security guard at a regional store in North London.

In 2013, he became the treasurer of the Union Democratic Party but still struggled to become a common name. His political campaign received a major boost after the imprisonment of the UDP leader and Jammeh’s arch rival, Oasainou Darboe. Darboe’s imprisonment led to Barrow being chosen as his replacement.

Barrow’s journey from being a property developer to being chosen by seven Gambian opposition parties, ultimately defeating the four-time president-elect, has been nothing less than a fairytale. His supporters describe him as humble, industrious and kind. His ascent to power is seen as a new wave, as he promises to abolish many of the draconian laws floated by the previous president. Amendments proposed by him include establishing an independent judiciary, increased freedom for the media and decentralisation of presidential power.

A lesson to be drawn

The peaceful end to the 22 years old rule of the authoritarian Jammeh has definitely set an important model for the other neighbouring African countries. Jemmeh’s decision to step down, without a single gunshot being fired, saved his country from the violent transition.

The overturning of political powers in Gambia was the real victory of ‘Democracy’, representing a  government ‘of the people’, ‘by the people’,’for the people’.

Featured Image Credits: BellaNajja