Gambian vice-president Fatoumata Tambajang during the inauguration ceremony for his presidency at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, west of the capital Banjul, on February 18, 2017.
Thousands of supporters gathered on February 18, 2017 to finally celebrate the inauguration of Gambian President Adama Barrow, a month after he was sworn in across the border in neighbouring Senegal during a tense power struggle. The festivities began in the morning at Independence Stadium in Bakau, west of the capital, and were to be attended by several African heads of state as well as high-ranking diplomats.
 / AFP / SEYLLOU        (Photo credit should read SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Gambia’s President under pressure to appoint VP before leaving for Hajj

Activists are pressuring the Gambia’s President Adama Barrow to appoint a vice president before he leaves the country to Saudi Arabia, where he would be performing the Muslim pilgrimage.

Mr. Barrow took power after a short struggle in January over ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s unwillingness to step aside but has since not appointed a vice president nearly eight months into his rule.

Barrow’s choice for veep was put on hold after pro-democracy campaigners say Fatoumata Tambajang’s appointment violated the constitution due to an upper age limit that restricted her from taking the office.

The discriminatory law has since been amended by the country’s parliament, which in July voted to remove the restriction, giving way to Mr. Barrow to swear-in his chosen nominee.

The President should follow the dictates of the Constitution by appointing a Vice President. It is quite baffling that after all the efforts to amend the Constitution to suit the president’s desires of appointing Madame Tambajang, we are yet to have a VP,” said human rights activist Pa Samba Jow.

“It will be contemptuous for the president to further drag this matter. Appointing a VP is what history, circumstances and the Constitution demands and I hope President Barrow will do the right thing before embarking on his journey to Mecca.”

Both opposition and Barrow supporters are calling for the issue to be put to rest in an effort for the nation to collectively focus on the government’s development agenda without undue distractions.

Tambajang has been overseeing the vice presidency but it is not clear what is holding back Mr. Barrow from having her sworn-in. Tambajang’s appointment is supported by many, even among those in the opposition.

“The president should appoint a VP to have the full compliment of his cabinet to proceed on the very ambitious agenda he was elected on,” said Karamba Touray, a political activist and supporter of the new government.

“The circumstances surrounding his assumption of office and the comprehensive mess he inherited including deliberate obstacles Yayah Jammeh legislated that are designed to thwart democracy the undoing of which will take time and much effort.”

Gambians are starting to agree on one thing: that seven months is adequate time for the president to stand his full cabinet and the important position of VP to be filled without any further delay.

Barrow had traveled to several at least six countries since coming to power. It will be his second visit to Saudi Arabia, where he took part in a meeting with Muslim leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Mr. Barrow on Tuesday unveiled his National Security Council but the Chairperson of the Council, which should be the Vice President was missing, making it incomplete.

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