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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

4 YEARS OF BARROW UNDER MICROSCOPE A tale of successes and failures

By Omar Bah

Four years ago, a new president Adama Barrow was inaugurated in Senegal to replace Yahya Jammeh, who lost the 2016 presidential election. Jammeh initially refused to hand over power but the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, intervened with threats of a military action before he relinquished power and fled into exile. Mr Barrow became president and the head of a coalition government which was sworn in January 2017.

As he marks four years in office on 19 January 2021, The Standard sought opinion of political parties, activists and supporters of the president on the achievement or otherwise of The Gambia’s third president.

The United Democratic Party administrative secretary, legal and human rights affairs, Almamy Taal, said: “Beyond the divergent views and the peace that continue to exist, this government has demonstrated ineptitude on a scale that is really scandalous.”

Taal added that the constitutional and institutional reforms that Gambians were putting their hopes on have been an unmitigated failure.

“This is followed by the entrenchment of a rule of law that has been known to be very abusive to press freedom and basic human rights. So this is not a day for blame-game, it is a day for reflection on the wasted opportunities by this government,” he said. 

Taal advised Barrow to get himself good advisers if he wants to make up for the lost opportunities in the past 4 years. “Otherwise, there is not going to be any meaningful change”.

The leader of the GMC, Mai Ahmad Fatty, in his comments on Barrow’s four years, said: “This government was elected on one thing only and nothing more; we campaigned on a reform agenda, and the voters affirmed. So we came on a three-year plan to make profound reforms as the most important mandate. Generally, it was about enthroning governance reforms in the area of the civil service, security sector, statutes, institutions, etc. In my frank assessment, there has been a general failure in reforms across all sectors as contained in the Coalition Manifesto. In fact, the Manifesto which was transitional was abandoned in the first year of the presidency. In terms of governance, it is below business as usual,” Mai Fatty said.

He further stated that the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure appears to be the star ministry because it’s the only sector that appears to be making the most noticeable impact. “On the other hand, there have been moderate improvements in energy and infrastructure. Even in these two areas, the lack of transparency on procurement matters remains deeply worrying to Gambians. There are also grave national concerns about public finance management, budget irregularities, etc. Again, this is in the domain of the Ministry of Finance,” he said. The government, he argued, is rather doing well in the area of human rights and respect for the basic norms of democratic plurality.

“There too, there are some significant legal and procedural transgressions relating to the public sector that need to be urgently addressed and reversed. Having said that, the government has succeeded in maintaining relative peace and stability over the period, and that’s important to me,” he added.

The APRC deputy spokesperson, Dodou Jah, said much was expected of the coalition government but despite receiving overwhelming support from the international community, little of the expectation has been realised.

Banka Manneh, a prominent activist, said: “The good thing about Barrow’s 4 years in office is that Gambians are no more arbitrarily arrested or tortured. We can also say we have a certain degree of democracy. Newspapers and political parties are striving. That is the beauty of it. The TRRC has been a great deal although we are nervous about what would happen with its recommendations because we have seen what happened with the Janneh Commission where people who should have been indicted were not.

The actual dreams and aspirations of the Gambian people, that is to have serious reforms that will help us avoid the kind of madness we experience in the past, have not been addressed. We were also looking forward to seeing reforms in the civil service and the security sector too but unfortunately none of the reforms has been put in place yet,” he said.

A social and political commentator, Pa Samba Jaw, said: “Barrow’s foremost failure is his decision to renege on his promise to serve for only three years and not to succeed himself. This promise was to ensure an end to self-perpetuating rule and to help with the reforms agenda. Unfortunately for Gambians, by his decision to run for a second term, President Barrow has become an impediment to the coalition agenda. He has effectively put his personal agenda to satisfy his insatiable desire to be president for at least 15 years ahead of the people’s needs. This is the reason why President Barrow has conveniently continued to hobnob with Jammeh’s enablers while the victims, whose victimization made his presidency possible, are being side-lined and disrespected.”

Dodou Sanno, presidential adviser and deputy campaign manager of National Peoples Party, said: President Barrow has over the past four years brought a democratic environment that is unmatched by all indications; the Janneh Commission, the TRRC and the Land commission were all established in the last four years and all are geared towards correcting the wrongs he inherited.”

Dou Sanno said Barrow has also embarked on a massive construction of roads, bridges and ensured that food commodities are accessible and affordable. “Electricity has also been stabilised and a lot of other good things that I cannot say at one go. So really, he has done all he can to satisfy the needs and aspirations of Gambians,” Sanno said.

He said since Barrow came to office Gambians have not heard of arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture or any other form of human rights violation.

“I am convinced that Gambians will not regret a bit, if they give him another chance. I know the plans he has in place to transform this country to a model state,” he said.

Sanno appealed to Gambians to avoid misusing the new-found democracy to create chaos in the country. “Let us all ensure that we jealously safeguard the peace and stability we all enjoy in this country since Barrow took office,” he concluded.

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