President Adama Barrow has come under increased media scrutiny as he
entered his first 100 days in office. The country’s newly elected leader sets high expectations in putting an end to more than two decades of dictatorship under Yahya Jammeh, the man whose leadership left the Gambia in broken pieces. Some people at home and abroad greeted President Barrow’s first three months in office with mixed reactions.
“President Barrow’s first 100 days have included some momentous steps
forward for human rights in the Gambia, but there remains a huge amount of work to do in order to make a decisive break with the country’s brutal past,” Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Regional Director, Alioune Tine, sounded.
For over two decades, the Gambia had been in the spotlight for the numerous state-sponsored emblematic cases of gross human rights violations. The regime of the defiant longtime ruler turned a deaf ear to the international community’s calls to respect rule of law, promote and protect human rights. Jammeh’s legacy of brutality has bred ‘rule of fear’ in what used to be a very free country. For 22 years, Gambians have been searching for answers to the Jammeh dictatorship. But the defeat of a man who bragged to ‘rule for a billion years’ by Adams Barrow on December 1st, 2016 ushered in a new era in the Gambia. It is a country where the new the authorities have demonstrated the willingness to right the wrongs of the past.
While applauding President Barrow for releasing dozens of political detainees as well as rescinding the Gambia’s withdrawal from the International
Criminal Court, human rights watchdogs still want the new leader to move fast with major reform agenda in order to put the country on the right path.
“Draconian laws, unaccountable security forces and a weak justice system provided the machinery of repression during Yahya Jammeh’s rule, and the work to reform them begins now. The Gambia should also seize the opportunity of becoming the 20th country in Africa to abolish the death penalty,” Alioune Tine said.
A leading civil society activist posted an opinion piece that has generated and continues to generate reactions on social media. Madi Jobarteh’s awarding of C grade to President Barrow continues to be lampooned, questioned and applauded. “I give a C grade for his performance. This score is earned more for his personal demeanor and less for his leadership as a president. Since assuming office, he has demonstrated decorum and consistency in his few words. He continues to speak the language of democracy and tranquility,” Madi Jobarteh wrote, opening room for controversy.
Jobarteh said President Barrow’s posture is reassuring and filled with opportunities if strategically exploited with hard, concrete and consistent actions. “As a President, Barrow appears to have good intentions and indeed some important moves have been made.”
As he scrutinises government’s actions during these first 100 days, Mr. Jobarteh took a swipe at Gambian authorities, pointing out their limited use of the media to highlight their good record. “Thus Barrow needs to understand that his biggest weapon is communication. It will strengthen his leadership by enabling him to dominate the narrative and therefore mobilize the people toward his vision and direction.
That way he shows that indeed he is in full control.”
Another area of concern that drew Madi Jobarteh’s attention is the recent decision by the Barrow government to expose the serious crimes committed under the Alliance for Patriotic Re-orientation and Construction (APRC) regime which endorsed Yahya Jammeh’s reign of terror for more than two decades.
“It is important that Barrow understands that in digging into the APRC atrocities, there is need for a holistic approach. This will require a broad-based multi-expert commission to pursue the cases,” he warned.
The Gambia has launched indictment against 9 former senior officers of
the National Intelligence Agency allegedly linked to the murder of pro-electoral reform activist Ebrima Solo Sandeng. The new authorities have also announced their resolve to set up a truth and reconciliation commission and expressed their readiness to offer reparations to victims.
Jobarteh decried the approach of taking the numerous cases separately as there is huge risk of seeing some ‘evidence or crime scenes to be wiped out even before action reaches them’.
“Once again, the weakness has been strategy. Which raises the questions to how do Barrow and his Cabinet function? Are they meeting regularly, sharing information and discussing issues? So far the nature of decisions shows such meetings are not taking place, as they should,” he added.
The Gambia is undoubtedly moving towards new era with more challenges lying ahead. President Adama Barrow’s ability to overcome the hurdles will open a new page in the country’s political history. Decades of brutality by the APRC regime have done serious damages to the country’s institutions as well as its image. Despite high hopes placed on the new regime, Gambians continue to push for the change they have voted for…