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Gambia: 100 days of democracy | The World Weekly

Gambia recently marked 100 days of its return to democracy. Back in late January many Gambians celebrated when autocrat Yahya Jammeh was ousted after 22 years in power. His democratically elected successor, Adama Barrow, faces no easy task rebuilding the West African country, but as the new president has yet to move out of his expensive hotel into the state house, Gambians are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress.

Many have welcomed the new government’s pledge to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Some action has already been taken as the former head of the National Intelligence Agency and seven of his men have been arrested for the killing of an opposition activist during Mr. Jammeh’s reign. However, the roots of authoritarianism are still deeply embedded in Gambia’s police, military and judiciary after two decades of Jammeh rule.

Despite growing calls for Mr. Jammeh’s arrest and trial, Adama Barrow remained coy in a recent interview with the BBC: “We will have to see what the commission recommends”. Abdoulaye Saine, a Gambian political scientist at Miami University, told The World Weekly this “raises questions” about the deal struck with the former autocrat before his departure to Equatorial Guinea.

The country also faces severe economic and infrastructural problems. Dr. Saine believes the new president “must immediately tackle and ultimately resolve the electricity and water shortages”. This might prove difficult with the state coffers rumoured to have been emptied by Yahya Jammeh just before he left.

Another pressing issue is youth unemployment. At roughly 43%, and rising, Gambia has one of the highest rates across Africa of young people attempting the perilous journey to Europe, locally known as the “backway”. Since many young Gambians played an important role in mobilising support for Adama Barrow they will want to see their efforts rewarded with jobs.

Dr. Saine believes that the government must adopt a crisis mindset “rather than the slow, and triumphalist mode it is currently in”.

Joseph Mendy, a university student based in Sere Kunda, Gambia's largest city, told TWW that President Barrow has yet to give the “masses a sense of direction”, but does concede that his time in office so far may have been “too short for any significant impact”. “I am grading him a ‘C’ for his 100 days,” he concluded.

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