Gambia: Who’s who in Barrow’s presidential task force

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Monday, 22 November 2021 18:10, updated on Wednesday, 8 December 2021 15:48

Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has successfully won the presidential elections. But he couldn't have done it without his most loyal people around him and creating new alliances.

Adama Barrow 

He had a surprise victory over Yahya Jammeh, who remains in exile in Equatorial Guinea. This time around, however, Barrow intends to control his destiny. On 9 November, the outgoing president officially launched his electoral campaign. Breaking his promise to only stay in power for three years after defeating Jammeh, this former member of the diaspora decided – in the end – to complete his five-year term.

In the 4 December polls, he faced oppositionist Ousainou Darboe, a UDP (United Democratic Party) candidate and Barrow’s former second-in-command. Before Darboe was removed from his post as vice-president in 2019, the two men were allies.

The National People’s Party (NPP), which the head of state launched in January 2021 to help him secure a second term, will not have to go up against Jammeh’s formation, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC). Instead Barrow reached an agreement with the APRC, two weeks before the election, to form an alliance. To give himself the best chance of success, Barrow had formed a tight team around him.

Isatou Touray

This 66-year-old activist was Barrow’s former health minister. She has been fighting for women’s rights, including against gender-based violence and FGM, for several decades. She ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election, before ultimately dropping out to endorse him.

In March 2019, Touray was appointed vice-president after Darboe was ousted. According to a government official, she is the president’s ‘first confidante’ and accompanies him to events in and out of the country. Last September, she represented him at the UN.

Musa Drammeh

This former UDP member joined Barrow’s government in 2018 as minister of territories. Drammeh is a key member of Barrow’s electoral campaign staff, as he coordinates the activities of district chiefs across the country.

This minister was advising Barrow back in 2016 and is now on the front lines defending his record. Described as the president’s ‘adopted uncle’ by a close friend of the latter, the former parliamentarian is extremely familiar with Gambia’s political system. He is also the NPP’s national treasurer.

Fabakary Tombong Jatta

Jatta is one of Barrow’s strongest allies. People close to the president say that even though Jammeh dismissed the APRC’s executive secretary, the agreement that he concluded with the NPP last September is still valid. As a result, Jammeh’s party loyalists may end up voting in large numbers for Barrow.

Hamat Bah

Bah, the head of the National Reconciliation Party who is also minister of tourism and culture, was a member of the 2016 coalition that brought Barrow to power. He has been supporting the incumbent president ever since and now belongs to the NPP-led alliance.

The 57-year-old businessman, who ran for president in 1996, 2001 and 2011, was one of the leaders of Barrow’s electoral campaign. He worked hard to ensure that his boss was re-elected.

Ebrima Sillah

In 2004, Sillah, then a young journalist working for the BBC, fled the Gambian dictatorship for Senegal. Based in Ghana during the 2016 election, he had worked within the UDP on diaspora communication strategy.

In 2017, he returned to Banjul, where he met the newly elected president for the first time. The president appointed him as head of GRTS, the national television station. He then became a key part of Barrow’s inside team, coordinating both the communication of his government – which he joined in 2018 as minister of information – and of his party.

Maimuna Ceesay Darboe

Darboe is considered Barrow’s ‘foot soldier’ and is close to him. In 2016, she was one of the first UDP leaders to support his candidacy. Today, she is at the forefront of his new campaign as the NPP’s diaspora mobilisation officer. She is one of the pillars of the head of state’s new formation, as is Maimuna Balde, who is in charge of women’s issues.

Lamin Cham

The UDP’s former youth leader, who resigned in 2016, knows President Barrow well. After securing his victory in the last election, he was appointed the NPP’s campaign director. He is also the president’s political adviser.

Demba Sabally

The NPP’s second vice-president was in charge of the Barrow’s campaign political activities. Extremely well-known throughout the different Gambian regions, the businessman’s role is to mobilise opposition militants from within the alliance centered around Barrow’s new party. A former member of the Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC), he joined the GDC in late 2020.

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