Barely eight months into his major cabinet reshuffle Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has reserve course in his appointments of VP Darboe and few other ministers. In July 2018 Barrow shocked the nation by removing former VP Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang and few other ministers and replaced them with appointments from his original political party the United Democratic Party (UDP).
The appointment of UDP’s party leader as VP was the one that made the most headlines. Political pundits, party supporters and opposition were thrown into confusion not knowing what direction and message the appointment send to the Gambian people. At the time it was seen by many people as an attempt on the side of the President to consolidate and compensate the United Democratic Party. Many also speculated that the President was enticing Darboe to pave way for him to inherit the leadership of the party.
The President’s decision today to fire not only Darboe as VP but two other cabinet ministers Amadou Sanneh of Trade and economic affairs, Lamin Dibba of Agriculture come as a result of several months of open political power struggle between the President and the United Democratic Party. In the past several months, Gambians have witnessed an open confrontation through war of words and code language between VP Darboe and President Barrow. It was even more apparent between their individual supporters and or militants.
Darboe’s removal as VP was something that political pundits saw as inevitable but many did not believe Barrow would have the political courage to make the bold move thereby clearly drawing the battle lines. The firing came at a time when Yakumba Jaiteh a UDP party executive and National Assembly member nominated by the president was removed from her seat. She filed a lawsuit at the Supreme court challenging the President’s decision. That decision from the supreme court was due today. The court dismissed her challenge to have an injunction against the swearing of her replacement and decides to hear the full merits of her removal at a later date.
Many Gambians are once again shocked on President Barrow’s decision to make a cabinet reshuffle which clearly appears to be an effort to consolidate power instead of to reform the political system. Darboe’s removal is clearly a stab at the UDP and a resentment of his “political father” daring to challenge (a coup) the President’s quest for power and path to become the leader of the United Democratic Party. The fight between the two camps has been very nasty and all was evident except Barrow’s courage to make the move to fire Darboe from being the number two man. It is totally unimaginable that two years down the road President Barrow will be in a position to quash the party that propelled him to power. There is no question without the UDP, Adama Barrow would have never seen the political lime light much less become President.
The replacement of Darboe with Dr. Isatou Touray is yet another head scratching decision. It is hard to imagine what Barrow is thinking and who is giving him advice. While Dr. Touray’s appointment looks good from having a female VP, it was exactly the same decision the President made to remove another female VP who was the architect of the coalition that brought him to power. No reason was given for removing the former female VP from the number two position for which Barrow was heavily criticized. From a national interest and leadership perspective, it is hard to see how the appointment of Dr. Isatou Touray made sense when she was literally ineffective from her two previous ministerial positions; employment and Health. These were two of the most important ministerial positions that has direct impact on the well-being and economic prosperity of the country. If a leader saw no backbone running those major departments, how can such a person bring any positive change to Gambia by becoming the Vice President; a heart beat from the Presidency?
What is evident is that President Barrow indeed has a serious problem in making sound decisions in the best interest of the Gambian nation. He certainly has shown that his immediate interest is how he can consolidate power and pave a way to entrenching himself into the presidency. It is also clear that he doesn’t have the courageous advisers who will look him in the eyes and tell him the change in Gambia wasn’t about him and certainly it wasn’t his lone efforts that brought him to power. He has once again thrown the Gambia into political limbo by revising a decision that he made less than eight months ago.
While the opposition to UDP and Darboe may celebrate this decision, independent and politically conscious minded Gambians see beyond the politics. They see a leader who is indecisive, who puts personal ambition over national ambition and an Africa leader who is on course to squander one of the biggest political opportunities to make Gambia a beacon of hope. The coming months will be very interesting as the UDP is now clear on what direction Barrow wants to take. Certainly, the party equally shoulders some responsibility for grooming Barrow, nurturing him against the larger interest of the coalition and now all that backfires. But the UDP is perhaps in a better position to consolidate its base and equally go all out against the president. It remains to be seen whether other members of the UDP within the cabinet including advisers to the president and diplomats will revolt by resigning from their positions. No one saw this coming… Stay tuned for more news and analysis…
Report and Analysis by Demba Baldeh Associate Editor