After being elected President of the Republic of the Gambia by the people of the Gambia on Thursday, 1stDecember, 2016, Adama Barrow had an exclusive interview with Foroyaa Newspaper’s Kebba Jeffang on Sunday December 4th on issues of election, handing over from the current President Yahya Jammeh who served for 22 years, plans for agriculture development, international relation, the economy and irregular migration.
His election made him the 3rd president of the Gambia. He is the first president of the country to change a regime through the ballot box. Below is the full interview.
Jeffang: Mr President Elect, congratulations for being the choice of the people at the 1st December Presidential polls.
Barrow: You are welcome and appreciated.
Jeffang: Could you tell the readership what this victory means to you?
Barrow: It means a lot to me and it means a lot to the Gambian people because at last the Gambia is free, there is freedom. So that makes it very important.
Jeffang: Were you surprised by the move of the outgoing president Yahya Jammeh for accepting defeat?
Jubilant crowd welcome Adama Barrow on his return from presidential campaign tour of the provinces
Barrow: I was not surprised and I have given a lot of interviews before the elections that we are going to win and the president will accept defeat. You know why? It is the people. He has all his intelligence around him and he knew what was going on very well. Power belongs to the people and if they are at certain level you cannot do anything. He accepted because people demanded for power to return.
Jeffang: Since you have been elected president on Friday, people have been waiting to hear your first address to the nation. What is holding you to this far?
Barrow: Technically there was something that was holding us. We wanted to relay this message with our supporters but it could come through because we were waiting on government side to congratulate us. That takes time and it was late so it was not safe anymore for me to go in the street so I decided to come home. But we are working on it to gather our supporters at one point and address them.
Jeffang: So what was your mood after hearing his congratulatory message through a telephone call?
Barrow: I feel happy because we exchanged words and to all of us it is The Gambia that is more important and that Gambia is paramount. It is more important than Yahya Jammeh and Adama Barrow so the fundamental thing is The Gambia was the most important thing. All personal distinctions were packed aside and the focus was on the Gambia.
Jeffang: When do we expect the transfer of power from the old government and the elected one?
Barrow: In January but we don’t know yet exactly what date but people are working on it and there will be a team set up from the government side and our side to work on that but it will be January because he said it himself.
Jeffang: How is the composition of your government after the transfer of power is done?
Barrow: As at now we cannot tell exactly who will be occupying where but we know that it is coming from the coalition. We have eight members and the composition will come from that eight members.
Jeffang: But will you be retaining some of the members of the current cabinet of Jammeh?
Barrow: I don’t think we will retain any member of the current members of the cabinet. We have a wide range of experienced people and it is a big team which is committed and hungry to start work.
Jeffang: What about the area of the public sector?
Barrow: We believe that immediately we get into the government we will start the reforms and there will be a blue print that will dictate this government on what to do on those aspects.
Jeffang: I understand that yesterday (Saturday) you held discussions with Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the representative of the United Nations Secretary General in West Africa and the Sahel. What was the discussion about and the outcome of it?
Barrow: Well they were here to relay a message from Banki Moon, the UN Secretary General that he is happy about the outcome as well as the nature in which the election was conducted peacefully and he was here to congratulate me on that. That was the message he brought and we appreciate that message and he said the UN is ready to work with the Gambia. They assured me of their readiness to continue working with The Gambia. This was the message and it was a very good one for us and the Gambia.
Jeffang: Was there any complaint brought to you so far about the conduct of your supporters against the outgoing APRC party supporters after you emerged victorious?
Barrow: It is today that somebody was telling me about that but I heard the information that some of the APRC supporters attacked our supporters in Madiana. I don’t know how reliable is the source but we will still find out.
Jeffang: So have you set up any Commission of Enquiry to look into the affairs of the outgoing government?
Barrow: We haven’t set up anything yet but we will set up a truth and reconciliation commission because we want to know the truth and based on every case we will take decisions.
Jeffang: There are Gambians who are in exile for years and they want to come home. Will this victory open amnesty for those people?
Barrow: This victory is a big opportunity for those Gambians because it is now a free Gambia and every Gambian is a free person. Everybody is part of the Gambia and we want everyone to be part of the process, all hands on deck to move the country.
Jeffang: And would there be any condition attached to this amnesty?
Barrow: There is no condition because they are Gambians as we are and everybody should be part of the show.
Jeffang: Agriculture is the driving force of Gambia’s economy, what plan does your government have for the farmers and the sector development?
Barrow: We know that very well that agriculture is the backbone of this country and I think the APRC regime failed in that aspect. We will bring in policies that will be blue print with highly qualified and knowledgeable people so that we can guide farmers to do better. We are in the 21st century and we have to improve things at a higher level. There were mixed-farming centres during President Jawara’s time and I think we will work on those centres so that they will guide farmers by giving them technical assistance and advice. This will do very well for the farming sector. But for rice growing, there are countries that are highly advanced in that aspect and we will invite those countries for technical aid so that we can improve on agronomy and make a difference.
Jeffang: Concerning the international relationship, the Gambia was having a good relationship with Taiwan who supports the country on agronomy but broken up later, President Jammeh also pulled out the country from the Commonwealth membership as well as the ICC. How open is your new government in your foreign policies?
Barrow: We are very open to the international community and it is our priority to bring back everybody on board as the Gambia needs everybody. We want everybody to be friend of The Gambia. When we say smiling coast we want that term to be implemented. We will be friend to everyone and we will want all of them to come back.
Jeffang: So when are you releasing the political prisoners?
Barrow: It is not me it is the current president because he is still the president. We are trying to facilitate that because it is good for them and it is good for the opposition. It is a sign of reconciliation and I think that will help us to move on. In Sha Allah! I think it will be done before he leaves office in January.
Jeffang: Would this be based on a swap of interest?
Barrow: Not exactly, but it will be some sort of reconciliation at least when you are going you say bye bye, I think it is better.
Jeffang: But would there be any accountability against the outgoing government?
Barrow: We don’t have personal grievances against anybody but we will look into everything for the past 22 years then based on the reports we will act but we assure that we will follow due process.
Jeffang: The biggest problem affecting Gambians particularly young people is lack of employment resulting to increasing departure through irregular migration in search of greener pastures. What do you have to change this trend?
Barrow: It is a new Gambia we have ushered in and based on the qualified personalities within the new system jobs will be created to solve the trend particularly in the fishing industry. We have to exploit that as well as encouraging business men to go into light industries because you cannot be consuming always, you have to produce. If you produce you create employment and it generates wealth for you so we will look into light industries that will create jobs. I believe this will encourage young people and give them confidence to stay at home.
Jeffang: Thank you Mr. President-elect
Barrow: You welcome.