Disappointment and betrayal are among the most trending words in Gambian political discussion these days. Many of the original eight-member coalition parties represented in the cabinet have either been sacked or relegated to some insignificant advisory role.
The persistent topic whether President Adama Barrow should serve three or five years has resurfaced. This time, bizarrely, the calls are coming from an unlikely quarter, supporters of his United Democratic Party (UDP), under whose ticket he was unexpectedly elected. Banjul and Serekunda, the two most politically important cities in the country, has become an ever increasing crop of dissatisfied Gambians who say the government has failed to live up to expectation.
So, when Gambians voted for change on that December 1, it was an expression of protest against Jammeh, and not necessarily support for the opposition. President Barrow is the driver of the political status quo and the decider of a three year transition government or a five year Constitutional mandate and any public outcry will be levelled against him.
The brewing public anger against the Barrow administration has been exacerbated by a noticeable pattern of scandals around the Presidency, as well as the government’s increasing penchant for ignoring citizens’ demand for explanations. The $1 million donation to the private Foundation of First Lady Fatou Bah-Barrow and the scandal of the alleged attempt by President Barrow to bribe lawmakers are still fresh and disturbing. The decision to slam travel restriction on government officials came hot on the heels of an uproar against the “extravagant” cost of flying the president to the US to attend the UN General Assembly.
According to reports, the government hired a Vista Jet plane which cost taxpayers between $17,000 and $24,000 per hour. In September, the Ministry of Finance provided parliament with a summary of travel expenditure by various government entities from January-July. It revealed that the Presidency alone consumed about $4.6 million.
President Barrow was later quoted as saying that the amount was less than what other countries paid for travels by their presidents. President Barrow’s critics blame his failure to deliver on his growing focus on his political future, which seems to have also created a rift within his own camp. His administration was supposed to be a transition one.
Since part of the Coalition 2016 agreement was for the presidential candidate to resign from his original party, technically, President Barrow is no longer a member of the UDP. Nonetheless, the party appeared comfortable with all his gestures, until recently when it dawned on its members that he no longer represented their interests. And now its congress time. Has the President held his congress on that Sunday when praises of loyalty and support were heaped on him or as we are hearing the President will be holding