The Gambian President Adama Barrow has finally confirmed the official appointment of Aja Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang as the country’s new Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs. Exercising his executive powers as President of the Republic, acting under the provisions of Sections 70(1) and 70(3) of the Constitution of the Gambia has appointed Mrs. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang as Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs with effect from 8th September, 2017. A released statement from the President’s office stated “His Excellency the President of the Republic, of The Gambia Mr. Adama Barrow, acting under the provisions of Sections 70(1) and 70(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia has appointed Mrs. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang as Vice President and Minister for Women’s Affairs with effect from 8th September, 2017. Mrs Tambajang has been overseeing the post of Vice President since President Barrow came to office”.
Mrs. Tambajang’s appointment as Vice President has been the biggest hanging controversial appointment of the new Government in Gambia after the historic defeat of former Dictator Yahya Jammeh. She was initially appointment as VP on January 24th by President Barrow as the second female Vice President of the country. However, shortly after her initial appointment there were contentions that she may have been over aged for appointment to the position of VP due to Presidential age limit provision that was found in the 1997 constitution.
Following that wide spread debate in the new Gambia, government put together a quick bill to amend section 70 of the constitution to remove the age limit bracket to pave a way for her confirmation. The bill was hastily put together which Hon. Halifa Sallah National Assembly member for Serekunda raised an objection to the process that led to the amendment of the bill. The President was then forced to put the appointment on hold pending gazetting of the intended bill to be amended. Since then, Gambians have been waiting for a Vice President to be appointment. President Barrow was however set on his decision to appoint Aja Tambajang who is widely regarded as the mother of the struggle and pioneer of the coalition to oust former President Jammeh from power.
The controversial bill was finally amended on July 25th paving the way for the Interim VP to be officially appointed as VP. It took another 40 days for the President to finally make the official appointment. Many citizens were uncomfortable with the unusual time the President took to making the appointment especially during his three weeks trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Muslim pilgrimage commonly referred to as the Hajj. Many argued that the decision left the country vulnerable to constitutional crisis if something were to happen to the President. Upon his return the few days ago the President wasted no time in officially appointing Mrs. Jallow Tambajang as VP clearing all rumors and controversies over what was allegedly holding out the confirmation.
Many political activists argued that Mrs. Jallow Tambajang was not only qualified to be appointed to the position of VP, but was deserving of it given the crucial role she played during the coalition negotiations and campaign to remove the entrenched dictator from power. The long controversy over the VP appointment was very uncomfortable for many citizens who had high expectations for the Barrow Government. This left many people in doubt as to how much weight the new President put over the constitutional instrument that governs the country. “If the constitutional provision to the second highest position in the country can be so mutely handled, one wonders how many of such provisions would equally be ignored or handled lukewarmly” warned a political pundit who was commenting on the issue. It is hoped that with this appointment behind the President and the Justice department, the new government will now focus on putting together all the governing pillars and usher in a new draft constitution that will lead to the birth of a third Republic.
Mrs. Tambajang who has been unusually quiet during these eight months controversy hanging over her appointment will now actively function as a VP who is also in charge of Parliamentary affairs. As minister of women Affairs she is also expected to advocate for women’s rights and inclusion of women in Gambia’s new political discourse. Her resilience and promise to champion accountability of the previous government, constitutional and political amendments will now be put to test. She certainly does not look like she would ever run for office again which makes her the right person to champion a new Democratic transition through constitutional, legislative and judicial reforms for a new and better Democratic Gambia. Apart from the minister of Defense, President Barrow’s cabinet is now complete and work must begin in earnest.