President Adama Barrow has announced a rather usual step in the formation of his new government expected after his swearing-in on Wednesday. After making it clear that most of his ministers would come from his NPP-led grand coalition, the nation, and indeed serving and hoping to-be ministers, were eagerly waiting for the president to reveal his line-up. But in a terse statement yesterday, the president said he is instead going to swear in a “caretaker cabinet” next week, retaining all serving ministers in their portfolios until further notice. He gave no further details.
The Standard contacted various politicians and lawyers about the legitimacy of the president’s strange announcement. A lawyer, who demanded anonymity, said: ”The president did not break any law. He has the power to appoint anyone or keep his cabinet intact as long as he swears them in. But once they take office as ministers again, there is nothing like a caretaker ship; they become full-fledged ministers, and whatever changes the president will do again could only be a cabinet reshuffle or dissolution. I don’t think it is fair to keep his ministers in suspense about their fate in this ‘caretaker’ arrangement.”
According to a politician who also begged for anonymity, “the president is still playing a political game. Instead of hurryingly getting into business to run the country with a fresh competent cabinet, the president is delaying the country and going back to play politics. The whole idea is a plan to keep political entrepreneurs in his grand coalition to work for him to control the assembly in April before dishing out jobs to them.”
However, shortly after the initial announcement, the State House amended it with the following rejoinder:
“The Office of the President wishes to clarify that His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, has retained his immediate past Cabinet on a transitional basis pending the formation of a New Cabinet in due course.
Please be informed that the use of the phrase ‘caretaker cabinet’ is not consistent with the Constitution of The Gambia, hence this rejoinder.
Consequently, in line with the Constitution Section 71 (1) and cap (3) Members of the Cabinet will be sworn in on Thursday, 27th January 2022 at the State House in Banjul.”