Monday, January 22, 2018

Barrow's first anniversary as Gambia's President - Part I

Adama Barrow in Dubai with SG and prospective investors
When Adama Barrow, a little known 51-year old real estate agent was tapped by a Coalition of political parties as its flag-bearer, in the December 2016 presidential elections, the political odds were stacked against him to succeed in dislodging an entrenched dictatorship that was on its 22nd year.

National, and well as international political pundits, were all caught flat-footed when the Independent Electoral Commission announced that Mr. Barrow had won the elections by 43% of the votes to 40% for the sitting dictator with 17% shared by the rest of the opposition. 

The strategy for the opposition had always been to ramp-up the international campaign against one of Africa's most brutal dictatorship - a campaign that had gained appreciable traction in the previous couple of years, in anticipation of a rigged election that will declare Jammeh the winner. 

Thus when the unanticipated happened on December 1st, with the announcement of the election results, the scramble started.  It became evident then, as now, that the Coalition of 7 +1  parties were unprepared to assume the mantle of political leadership.  The new president-elect lacked the prerequisite governance experience for the huge task of leading a country, especially one that is emerging from two decades of dictatorship that emptied the public treasury, destroyed the economy while leaving a trail of hallowed-out and dysfunctional public institutions in its wake.   

The political impasse that followed the refusal of the defeated dictator to vacate State House only compounded the problems of the incoming government of Adama Barrow.  Concerned about his personal security, the president-elect decided to seek temporary refuge in Dakar instead of returning to Banjul after attending the Francois Hollande's Franco-Africa Farewell Summit in Bamako - a move considered by many as Barrow's first political and diplomatic blunder. 

Accompanied by a handful of political neophytes with neither diplomatic nor national security experience to their name, the president-elect Dakar sojourn engineered by a couple of African heads of state was ill-advised.  It is public knowledge that some members of the transition team were not in favor of Barrow taking refuge in Dakar where he's likely to be exposed to the diplomatic elements that were not necessarily favorable to Gambia's national interest. 

"Macky (Sall) had him all to himself from Bamako to Dakar and only God knows what transpired in those critical days", lamented a key player in the coalition, who was worried that Barrow would sell all of what's left of the family jewels to Senegal before returning to Banjul to his coalition partners.

This sentiment was generally shared by Gambians who thought he should have returned home directly from Bamako to be with the rest of his coalition partners to provide the leadership necessary to face the belligerent dictator who'd refused to step down following his electoral defeat..  After all, the ECOMIG forces had already taken positions in key strategic points of the country to protect the incoming government and to flush Yaya Jammeh out of State House, if necessary. 

Seeking refuge in Dakar, ostensibly to the physical safety of president-elect Barrow, was considered the first misstep of the new government that may have lasting repercussions, including but not limited to what is increasingly looking like a win for the Senegalese leader for successfully extracting a most favored nation status for Senegal when The Gambia was at its most vulnerable state.


Part II will look at other aspects of Year One of the Barrow administration and the way forward