Just days after President Adama Barrow took his oath of office, he named Fatoumata Tambajang as his Vice President sending the country into a constitutional debate.
While Gambians debated about the constitutionality of Tambajang’s appointment, regional troops continued security sweeps to prepare for Barrow’s return but a man was offered the veep job and he turned it down.
Ousainou Darboe is the leader of the United Democratic Party, the party that Mr. Barrow is a member of. According to Darboe, he was offered the job but due to the upper age restriction, he turned it down.
Darboe was making an argument that Tambajang’s appointment was no mistake and that the removal of the upper age limit was not to help make her the vice president.
“She has shown proofs, documentation from the revenue authority and even from France showing that her appointment will not be in violation of the Constitution. You cannot forge a paper, especially from France,” Darboe said.
“The removal of the upper age limit is not tailored to Madam Tambajang. There are judges now in the Supreme Court, who would not have been appointed if the upper age limit was not removed.”
Most the new judges were fired by Jammeh for standing their ground to have an independent judiciary but Tambajang was only sworn in as Minister of Women’s Affairs. She was not confirmed as the Vice President until the upper age limit was removed for the second time by Parliament.
Although Tambajang continued to play the role of vice president [called the overseer], Barrow was advised against signing the first amendment into law in March by Attorney General Aboubacarr Tambadou.
Pro-democracy campaigners cried that the amendment, which was overwhelmingly passed by the then opposition-backed Parliament did not follow due process. After the parliamentary elections in April, the UDP dominated Parliament re-tabled the bill.
Surprisingly, even the former presidential advisor, Halifa Sallah, who was expected to oppose the bill supported it and said the initial voting by the old parliament was legitimate.
But why did Ousainou Darboe really turned down the vice presidency when he could also be an overseer until there is a consensus about the appointment?
That is now left to conspiracy theorists, political thinkers, and pundits to debate. Whatever the reason may be, now still remain high in ranking as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Darboe disagrees that Tambajang’s appointment was a constitutional oversight. Barrow’s government has not shown the proof of Tambajang’s age but does that matter any longer now that the discriminatory upper age limit is no more.
Tambajang is yet to be sworn-in as the Vice President. Barrow’s government has been under pressure since coming to power to have her sworn-in.
Tambajang chaired and led unity talks that united deeply divided opposition parties to back Mr. Barrow’s presidency. She has been in the forefront to free opposition protesters last year when many politicians played a tactical waiting game to avoid arrest, and snatch the coalition backing.