Gambia president plans massive overhaul, but keeps secret police
Gambian President Adama Barrow said Saturday that every aspect of his tiny west African state would need an overhaul after ex-leader Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule, but that its dread secret police would remain.
Barrow faces an uphill task after taking over from Jammeh, who left behind a dysfunctional economy and allegedly emptied state coffers ahead of his departure.
Rights group blame the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA) under his longtime control for forced disappearances and torture. Barrow said the NIA was “an institution that has to continue”, but that its name would be changed and training would be given to its operatives.
“The rule of the law, that will be the order of the day,” he said. Barrow also addressed one of Jammeh’s most controversial declarations, from 2015, that The Gambia was an “Islamic republic”.
Barrow, in contrast, insisted the country — whose population is 90 percent Muslim, with the rest Christian and animist — was a republic, “not the Islamic republic”.
Civil servants would likely return to a five-day work week, breaking with Jammeh’s rule that Friday was a day off in line with his Islamic republic rules.
“My government is going to look at every avenue and there will be a complete overhaul of the system,” Barrow said, speaking at his first press conference since arriving back from Senegal on Thursday.
The president promised his cabinet would be named early next week so that he could “get the ball rolling”, adding he would receive the first comprehensive information about the state of the nation’s finances also on Monday or Tuesday.
Jammeh has been accused by a Barrow aide of taking $11 million from the state coffers before leaving for exile in Equatorial Guinea, and diplomats have said the country was already in a precarious financial state.
Barrow’s first cabinet pick, Vice President Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, has caused controversy as she is allegedly too old to serve, according to current constitutional rules.
Asked about reform of The Gambia’s army, whose poor reputation is partly responsible for the presence of 4,000 west African troops to guarantee Barrow and the population’s safety, the president said he expected foreign nations to provide help.
“In the army, if we need technical aid, we will contact countries that are willing to help us,” he said. Controversial army chief Ousman Badjie would however keep his job, he said. There was “no time set” for the west African force to leave, Barrow added.