There are mix reactions on the streets of Banjul as Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow clocks first 100 days in power since he dethroned strongman Yahya Jammeh on December 1 presidential elections.
Critics of the new administration that started work in a hotel room because of the post polls crisis that hit the small nation said they have lacked clear vision on how to tackle country’s 22-year challenges caused by the dictatorship.
A Gambian political analyst and lecturer at the University of The Gambia, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay said that the new government has failed to “articulate its development priorities in these first 100 days”.
“The problem is that the government lacks a vision. They were only focused on removing Yahya Jammeh and they have no plans beyond that,” Dr. Ceesay said.
“We want to see a short-term, medium-term and long-term plan but we have a government that does not seem to know what it is doing…”
Adama Barrow has inherited a broken economy with a debt of about 115% of the GDP, income poverty of 48% and youth unemployment at 38% and much more, government sympathizers said.
Gambia’s vice president Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, who won the New African Magazine’s African Woman of the Year Award, said their government is committed to their campaign promises.
“The government will achieve its campaign promises because it is committed to it… This is a three-year transition period and we have developed a reform agenda in all the key areas,” she said.
“Rome was not built in a day… This government is not asking for people to be complacent but we need to manage the expectations. There is a need for patience because we are working on reversing a trend that went on for 22 years.”
Jallow-Tambajang said they have a blueprint which will be out for public scrutiny in May. She said the reforms will start there after the blueprint is out and contested by the public next month.
“Maybe we have not been regularly informing the public but we will improve on communication. We know it is important that people know what we are doing,” She said.
Gambia has suffered two decades of dictatorship and Barrow’s government has come to power on promises of sweeping legal and constitutional reforms.
He is 100 days today but with a National Assembly which started sessions barely two weeks ago and a broken judiciary which was politicized by Jammeh.
Jallow-Tambajang said their government was delayed by the two-month political impasse which rocked the small nation after Jammeh refused to step down claiming the election wasn’t fair.
“We had an election on December 1 and we won but we were only able to settle in February and inaugurate the president on Gambian soil,” she said.
“The reforms will start most probably by July or August.”
Gambia’s communication minister, Demba Jawo, said Gambians are “expecting quite a lot in a very short time”.
Alieu Secka, the CEO of Gambia Chamber of Commerce, a private sector pressure group in the country, told said the business sector is encouraged by the assurances of the new government though “there is still some impatience after 3 months”.
“We are encouraged by their openness but there are pressing issues the business community would want to see addressed especially in the area of energy,” Secka said.
Sidi Sanneh, a Gambian political analyst and former minister under Jammeh said “it is way too early, in the case of The Gambia, to apply the First One Hundred Day benchmark” on Barrow administration because of the unique challenges they have faced.
Meanwhile, the new administration has started reforming the prison systems by releasing all political prisoners and dozens of others who were convicted of minor offenses.
The absence of the strongman Jammeh is also visible in Banjul in the way people openly expressed themselves about government and its policies on the streets and on the media.