GAMBIA: One year after Jammeh’s departure, freedoms advance, economy stagnates


By the evening of January 21, 2017, the Gambians could hardly believe to be delivered from Yahya Jammeh’s iron fist. A year later, the political climate softened in the country, but the economic difficulties persist.

A former soldier who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994, Yahya Jammeh was largely elected and re-elected without interruption until his defeat in December 2016 against opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

His departure into exile for Equatorial Guinea – the epilogue to a rebounding crisis provoked by his refusal to yield power – has raised immense hopes in this former British colony, isolated in Senegal, with the exception of a narrow Coastal facade popular with tourists.

“There is democracy, everyone feels free. The disappearances without leaving a trace, it is finished in this country “, assures Kalipha Dampha, a teacher.

“There is no more NIA orjunglers”, Recognizes Ismaila Ceesay, professor of political science at the university, referring to the dreaded National Intelligence Agency ( NIA ), renamed and reworked by Adama Barrow, and” Junglers “(” Broussards “), considered squadrons of the death of the Jammeh regime.

“But otherwise, everything is the same,” he says: “Food prices are the same, wages have not increased, the health sector is in ruins, education is a joke” …

In his New Year’s speech, President Barrow invoked the record of his predecessor, claiming to have found on his arrival “a debt of over a billion dollars, an astronomical rate of 120% of GDP .”

The country has, however, switched “to foreign exchange reserves of less than one month of import coverage to more than four months at the end of the year” 2017, he said.

Under Yahya Jammeh, “state infrastructure has been neglected,” he added, citing the electricity sector, a major source of discontent of the population.

“During the cold season, you can always end up without water or electricity,” says Mati Gomez, a shopkeeper.

– West African Force – Critics speak much more freely than under Yahya Jammeh, but the road is still long, especially for journalists, long reduced to self-censorship or anonymity.

The Gambia Press Union ( GPU ) is campaigning for “the revision of media laws to bring them in line with international standards,” his secretary general, Saikou Jammeh , told AFP .

“The first year of Adama Barrow’s presidency has been a breakthrough in respect and protection of human rights, but much more needs to be done to break decisively with the violent past in The Gambia,” summarizes Amnesty International in a statement.

The authorities suspended until last week any political demonstration following clashes between supporters of Adama Barrow and Yahya Jammeh.

And a dozen military officers currently tried at court martial for mutiny were detained for several months without charge and some of them said they had signed confessions under torture.

A year after the departure of Yahya Jammeh following a military intervention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and a final Guinean-Mauritanian mediation, the stability of The Gambia remains under threat , according to the commander of the force of the ECOWAS, the Senegalese colonel Magatte Ndiaye.

According to him, deserters from the Gambian army mingle more and more with the traffickers and bandits on the borders with Senegal. “We have reports showing their involvement in the trafficking of wood or marijuana,” said Colonel Ndiaye, also mentioning robberies.

Prolonged several times, the mandate of the force of the Cédeao runs until May 2018.

Another uncertainty concerns possible prosecution of Mr. Jammeh, accused of many crimes and diverting more than 50 million dollars (about 44 million euros).

Asked this week by radio RFI and television France 24 about the possibility of an extradition of Yahya Jammeh, Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema replied that he would consider such a request, if it was presented to him, but there appeared unfavorable.

“Pursuing a person who made the decision to leave power might be a bad political conception,” he said



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