Cape Town — The latest political developments in Gambia “are not entirely surprising”, especially now that the country’s new president Adama Barrow is under “extreme pressure” to deliver on his election promises, says a West African think tank, the Open Society Initiative.
Following his second swearing-in ceremony in the Gambian capital last month, Barrow has in recent weeks, moved to fire a number of senior officials linked to the now exiled former leader of the tiny west African state Yahya Jammeh. He has also made sure that some of them are arrested.
The country’s former spy chief Yankuba Badjie was arrested last month and charged with the killing of a leading opposition member in April.
Meanwhile, last week, Barrow removed the head of the national prison system, David Colley, who had run the penitentiary system nearly non-stop since 1997 under Jammeh.
Furthermore, Barrow also fired the head of the armed forces, General Ousman Badjie. Badjie was the same general who declared his loyalty to Jammeh following December’s disputed elections, but joined in dancing on the streets after Barrow’s first inauguration in Senegal.
In an interview with News24, Open Society Initiative’s political governance programme manager, Mathias Hounkpe said that the purging of senior government officials by a new leader was “a normal occurrence when forming a government”.
Hounkpe said that Barrow’s continued purging of high profile government officials could also be an indication he didn’t trust those who were in Jammeh’s administration.
“It’s normal to execute changes in a transitional government, therefore, for me what is happening in The Gambia is not at all alarming. When you don’t trust people, it is difficult to retain them in your government.
“I also think that the Gambian president is under pressure from those who elected him to deliver on his manifesto, especially coming from a dictatorship such as that of Jammeh,” said Hounkpe.
Hounkpe said that Barrow did not want to be seen as “rewarding” those who were in Jammeh’s government.
“Those who have been sacked are regarded as the drivers of the repressive machinery. As a result, the new president wants to be seen as delivering on his promise.
“And again those who were serving under Jammeh were perceived to be corrupt ,thus, it would be in the interests of the new government to get rid of those people,” said Hounkpe.