Why Barrow Should be Allowed Five Years

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There is a furious debate as to whether or not President Adama Barrow should serve out his five-year constitutionally mandated tenure, as the 3year Jotna Movement gains momentum.
The contention stems from President Barrow’s earlier pledge to only serve a three-year transition term during which he will mainly focus on institutional reforms following two decades of mismanagement which effectively eroded trust in public institutions.
However, President Barrow had a change of heart insisting that he will remain in power until 2021 whether people like it or not. The statement in a Brikama rally had enraged his opponents who believe the President is increasingly becoming power-hungry and would go great lengths to perpetuate himself in power by hook or by crook.
The 3year Jotna is escalating the situation to bring pressure bear on the Gambian leader in the run-up to December which marks 3 years of Gambia’s presidential election which former autocrat Yahya Jammeh lost to a Coalition of opposition parties led by Adama Barrow.

While the President has been silent over the issue for a while, it’s clear that his Government is not taking this matter lightly. Observers believe that the most recent Cabinet reshuffle is linked to the Government’s strategy to deal with the mounting crisis. In the same vein, three Cabinet ministers jointly appeared on Kerr Fatou to address this very issue.

At any rate, Gambia faces two scenarios in case the President voluntarily or involuntarily steps down. According to the Constitution, the Vice President could succeed her boss to see through his term. The second possibility is that the President would call fresh elections.

VP Isatou Touray’s performance has been far from impressive: As a Trade Minister, the only remarkable achievement of her was the reduction of bread price by one dalasi. When she was redeployed as Health Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle, hopes were high that she would optimally deliver given her track record of fighting against FGM.
Gambian women suffer the most from our failed healthcare system. Veep Touray was again a disappointment, to say the least. Since her promotion to the VP position, a little is heard from and about her. Therefore, I don’t think she would do any better should she fill Barrow’s shoes as Head of State.

With regard to elections, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is obviously unprepared for an election. The IEC chair Alieu M Njie has repeatedly elucidated that the Commission is not ready to organize an election this year. This makes the second scenario quite unlikely.

Most importantly, I have listened to deliberations and radio interviews involving members of the 3years Jotna but I have noticed that they do not have a post-Barrow plan. Countries like Iraq and Libya were eager to dislodge their long-term tyrants but had no plans as what to do after they got deposed leading to anarchy and utter devastation of these once prosperous countries. We don’t want that scenario to happen in the Gambia.

Following careful consideration, I conclude that despite growing frustration with the president’s governance style, Barrow should engage his opponents in an inclusive dialogue whereby he is allowed to remain in power until 2021.
However, President Barrow must abandon his political ambition to stay in power beyond his current five-year term, particularly amid his ebbing popularity among the Gambian populace. Gambia remains fragile and could not afford another political deadlock.

Basidia M Drammeh

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