Last year December. On the 1st, Dec, 2016 to be precised, Gambians elected former real estate investor Adama Barrow as their new president in a landmark election that saw the defeat of President Yahya Jammeh.
Before his defeat at the hands of Barrow, the autocratic Jammeh ruled the Gambia for more than two decades. Jammeh seized power in the Gambia in 1994, after a bloodless military coup and thereafter maintained an iron grip over the political fortunes of the country.
As President, Jammeh regularly made elaborate pretensions of conducting democratic elections, but in practice, the Gambia remained under his tyrannical grip and he ruled the country like a private estate under his every whim.
Barrow’s election victory was the breath of fresh air Gambians needed, and since coming to power, he hasn’t disappointed. The new president has moved speedily to institute some significant policy changes to reflect the Gambia’s new status as a true democratic country with respect for the rule of law.
In the three weeks since his inauguration on January 19th, Barrow has reversed some of the most illogical and poorly thought-out policies introduced by the eccentric Jammeh.
Here, we take a look at three of the most important policy changes introduced by President Barrow.
In what was clearly his first major policy directive, President Barrow announced in a press conference soon after his assumption of office that the country would return to its old name and be known as the “Republic of the Gambia,” excising the word “Islamic” that former President Jammeh introduced when he renamed the country “The Islamic Republic of Gambia” in a fit of anti-Western fervour back in December 2015.
President Barrow told the press that despite having an overwhelming Muslim population (90 percent), with the rest as either Christians or animists, the Gambia was a secular nation and therefore a republic, not an Islamic republic.
Back in 2013, President Jammeh announced a four-day work week (Monday to Thursday) for public sector workers, leaving Friday as a work-free day. Jammeh said the extra day off would give Gambia’s mainly Muslim population more time to pray, socialize, and focus on agriculture.
At the time, critics of the policy said a four-day work week would promote lethargy in the civil service and reduce overall productivity, arguing that the Gambia was effectively losing out on a full day of productive business when compared with the rest of West Africa and the world that mostly operated on a five-day week.
On assumption of office, President Barrow scrapped the abbreviated week, saying that public sector employees would have to work at least four and half hours Mondays through Fridays.
In fulfilment of his campaign pledge, President Barrow assured Gambians and the rest of the world that the small west African country would remain a signatory to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Barrow gave the assurance after a meeting with the EU commissioner for international co-operation and development, Neven Mimica, thus reversing an earlier decision taken by former President Jammeh who instituted formal proceedings to withdraw the Gambia from the ICC last November.
President Jammeh first announced plans to pull out of the International Criminal Court in October, deriding the Hague court as the “International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans.”