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HomeBreaking NewsGAMBIA: IS PRESIDENT BARROW MAKING A U-TURN TOWARDS DICTATORSHIP?

GAMBIA: IS PRESIDENT BARROW MAKING A U-TURN TOWARDS DICTATORSHIP?

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President Adama Barrow who  defeated in 2016 his predecessor Yahya Jammeh in a presidential election, ending 22 years of dictatorship seems to pave the way back to autocracy. 

The arrest of journalists and critics has diminished press freedom in the Gambia and drawn criticism from both the public and civil society organizations. 

Barrow is slowly eroding the democratic gains made during the early days of his presidency. Civil rights groups and media organizations want Barrow to uphold democracy in Gambia and allow freedom of speech for all Gambians. 

Thus, according to Muhammed S. Bah, president of the Gambia Press Union, his organization is concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Gambia.

Detention without trial, arbitrary arrest, keeping people incommunicado, these are the things that are seeing today and that happened during Jammeh’s time. Madi Jobarteh, a human rights activist and political commentator, was arrested on October 9 after complaining that police were surveilling him. Jobarteh was also questioned about his criticism of the president on social media platforms.

Opposition activists Bayo Sonko and Modou Sabally were arrested on September 2023  but are currently out on bail. His release from detention resulted from the efforts of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists. Another journalist currently on bail is Bakary Mankajang, an independent reporter who posts on TikTok and a Facebook page called Mankajang Daily. Gambian police arrested Mankajang in connection with his reporting on police killings in Casamance.

So, there is a looming threat against press freedom and freedom of expression comparing with the past regime, these are some of the things that happened. So this is a concern, and it is really a serious threat to Gambian democratic gains.

It is highly likely the anti-government protests would take place until the beginning of the 2024. “No one is safe in Gambia. He [Barrow] started arresting political opponents. Citizens have reported a growing fear of expressing dissent, with many believing that Barrow is becoming intolerant of opposing voices. Some have gone as far as to say that no one feels safe in the country anymore.

Three-quarters of respondents to a Afrobarometer pollin the beginning of 2023 said corruption had increased under Barrow. Gambia Participates anticorruption organization has alleged mismanagement of funds meant to help the coronavirus recovery, including a scheme where lists of health workers were padded out with fake names to secure extra money. Gambia’s health minister acknowledged in 2020 that his department had uncovered such corruption.

The president has also drawn criticism for maintaining the ECOWAS military mission deployed when Jammeh refused to stand down, rather than allowing security to be handled by Gambian forces. However, according to the western diplomatic source, the presence of the Ecowas forces would have prevented possible coups.

Parliament’s failure to advance a new constitution that would have limited the president to two terms in office would be another source of public anger approaching to 2026 election year. 

The President said he believes in term limits, but not supporting the constitution that would bring in term limits. This position is not approved by Gambians who are tired of 10 years ruling presidents.

Originally Barrow agreed to stay in power as a transitional authority for three years, stepping down on January 19, 2020. However, when the term expires he started laying the groundwork for extending his tenure in office.

We are convinced, that the Gambia will not reach a democratic rule without a new charter to replace the 1997 Constitution, because the police and military are still governed by colonial-era laws. Attempts to craft a new and progressive constitution faltered in its early stages, resulting in significant financial expenditure without tangible results.

Recent developments in neighboring countries, coupled with internal challenges, raise concerns about the potential for conflict within the Gambia.Gambia has embarked on a series of critical transitional processes, including the Janneh Commission, Constitutional Review Commission, Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), and Security Sector Reform (SSR), to ensure stability and justice. However, the efficacy of these endeavours remains a subject of uncertainty and scrutiny. While the Janneh Commission succeeded in its mission to investigate former President Jammeh’s financial activities, it inadvertently provided an avenue for the emergence of new corrupt actors. The TRRC, though pivotal in exposing egregious human rights violations, awaits full implementation of its recommendations as outlined in the government White Paper. While SSR efforts are underway, their impact is tempered by the challenges faced by complementary transitional processes. It has been six years and counting since ECOMIG started operations in The Gambia, and it continues to be here without a clear mandate and end of mission. These issues raise critical questions about the extent of meaningful reform that can be achieved in Gambia’s pursuit of stability and justice.

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