As political crisis in the Gambia finally comes to an end, a financial crisis could be looming, with Adama Barrow sworn in as the country’s new president and his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh fleeing into exile with millions from state funds.
Jammeh held his presidential position in the Gambia for 22 years, but lost the last election to Barrow. Despite being democratically elected, however, Barrow’s leadership has been persistently undermined by Jammeh’s refusal to leave the State House and attempts to make last-minute concessions, as well as imposing a state of emergency and firing cabinet members, instead insisting in overseeing all ministries himself.
“Ecowas is ready to take steps to ensure that the elected president is able to assume his mandate. The new president will have his say.” The Nigerian foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, declared regarding intervention of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) with military advance if Jammeh remained uncooperative.
Barrow was inaugurated on 19th January 2017 and celebrations were rife despite underlying crises, with people rejoicing in the streets; as was the case when the election results were announced back in October 2016.
Military forces were on standby at the Gambian borders on 20th January, as the need for forceful extraction seemed likely. Whether forces actually entered the country is disputed; the Gambia’s chief of defence staff, Gen Ousman Badjie denied this outright after sources stated otherwise. Streets were abandoned for fear of violence, and 45,000 people were driven out of the country due to the political instability, according to the UN refugee agency. Internal security forces, whose allegiance had fluctuated between Jammeh and Barrow during the election, were also abandoning the stubborn ex-leader. “Nobody wants to die for this”, one source added. Barrow addressed the military in his inauguration speech, assuring improved working conditions and better pay.
Yahya Jammeh stepped down and agreed to go into exile on 21st January. “My prayer and desire [is] that peace and security continue to reign in The Gambia”, he commented in his concession speech, while president Barrow reacted, “the rule of fear has been vanished from the Gambia for good.”
It is further believed that Jammeh stole over £9 million and shipped out luxury vehicles in his final two weeks of power. This has now plunged the Gambia into a financial crisis, with coffers virtually empty, according to president Barrow’s special adviser, Mai Ahmad Fatty.
Adama Barrow will now have this added to the list of issues he is to face in his new role. “We must not forget the big promises Adama Barrow has made to free political prisoners, remove repressive laws and bring Gambia back to the international criminal court,” Amnesty International’s Sabrina Mahtani recaps.
The new presidency is already progress for the country as Barrow is the first democratically-elected leader of the Gambia since its independence from Britain in 1965. In Barrow’s words: “It’s now one Gambia, one nation, and one people…and with that I believe things will change.”