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Gambia: Adama Barrow on his way to a second term in office

By Marième Soumaré
Posted on Wednesday, 3 February 2021 16:25

Adama Barrow at the Russia-Africa Economic Forum, Sochi, October 2019 © Valery Sharifulin / TASS / Sipa USA / SIPA

Even though the Gambia's President Adama Barrow has not formally announced his candidacy for the presidential election of 4 December, there is no doubt that the outgoing head of state intends to run for a second term wearing the colours of his newly launched party.

Having just officially launched his National People’s Party (NPP), the president seems to have forgotten his promise to serve only a transitional term and is running for president on 4 December.

The NPP has been in existence for more than a year now, but it was on the evening of 30 January that the Gambian president’s political party was officially launched.

The presentation of the NPP at the Independence Stadium in Bakau – about ten kilometres from Banjul – in the presence of its delegates and supporters, will be accompanied by a speech that strongly resembles that of the beginning of the campaign on that day. “The NPP represents the present and the future, and it is the party of all social classes, based on the notion of true democratic and patriotic citizenship,” said the president.

READ MORE Adama Barrow to cling on despite promise to stay only three years

“I am convinced that in pressing me to form a political party to participate in the 2021 presidential election, the Gambian people took stock of my performance and called me to lead this historic journey,” he said. “This led to the birth of the NPP, which we are here to officially launch today.”

A forgotten promise

Barrow now appears determined to become more than a transitional president. He seems to have completely forgotten his promise to leave power after three years, the time to organise an election that he would not have run for.

Yet it was this commitment that convinced Gambians to elect him in 2016 to turn the page on decades of brutal dictatorship by his predecessor, Yayah Jammeh. Carried by the support of an opposition coalition, he promised not to go beyond the five years provided for in the constitution.

This is what allowed this almost unknown man to thwart all predictions and win 43.29% of the vote against Jammeh’s 39.64% on 2 December 2016. On 19 January 2017, he was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, while Jammeh – pushed out of the country by a regional political-military intervention – was preparing to go into exile.

“Three years, Jotna” (Three years is enough) was already being chanted by Gambians in the streets of Banjul in December 2019, reminding him – in vain – of his promise. However, the demonstrations that the government described as “subversive, violent and illegal” were severely repressed. The government also decided to close two national radio stations.

“No accomplishment”

“It’s very disappointing to see such an administration in control of the country,” said Almamy Fanding Taal, spokesman for the United Democratic Party (UDP), Barrow’s former political party. The president had announced his departure from his former party only a few months after his election, thanking Vice President Ousseinou Darboe, Jammeh’s historical opponent and secretary-general of the party. The latter will be, barring any surprises, the UDP’s candidate in the December elections.

READ MORE Gambia’s President Barrow chooses mandate over constituents

“The 2016 coalition was not going to last, firstly because the opposition did not believe in its victory. Barrow was chosen as a candidate because all party officials [including Ousseinou Darboe] were in prison at the time of the election,” said Taal.

Today, the UDP says the head of state has “done nothing for the Gambia” and yet he is destined to win the December elections. Only this time, the party will present its own candidate, without a coalition.

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