Fresh off a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, the improbable president of the Gambia has mustered enough courage to finalize the appointment of a Vice President. His choice is the same woman who has been warming the seat for the past 8 months.
President Adama Barrow came to office following the December 1st, 2016 presidential election in which he beat the incumbent, dictator Yaya Jammeh. When Barrow was sworn in on January 19th, he could not name a cabinet because he was a president in exile. The circumstances of his exile was created by Jammeh’s refusal to hand over power, alleging instead that the election have been rigged in favor of the opposition coalition. West African leaders jetted into Banjul to convince Jammeh to hand over power. When the efforts failed, the Senegalese president tactically picked the new president elect, and took him to exile in Senegal, potentially getting him out of harms way. Jammeh was eventually forced to go into exile as president elect Barrow ends his own exile to re-enter Gambia triumptly on a Senegalese presidential aircraft.
Upon his assumption of power, Barrow initially Named Fatoumata Tambajang as VP, on January 23rd only to withdraw it following public outcry over age disqualification. The Constitution decrees 65 as upper age limit for president and vice president. Barrow never completely withdraw Fatoumata Tambajang from the office of the Vice presidency, he kept her there to warm the seat under a new title, ‘Overseer Of The Vice Presidency’.
The government then rushed a Bill through the old legislative to remove the upper age limit. That process too was again beset by yet another Constitutional issue and again another outcry by the public. The president was advised by his Justice minister not to sign the new bill passed into law by the old legislature. And the roller coaster of high and low continued for the new president.
In the meantime, a new legislature was sworn in and went into work right away to remove the upper age limit, and to do so correctly this time. According to sources, the upper age limit was finally removed on July 25th, allowing the president to finalize the appointment of the vice president. But the president said nothing, and the waiting game continues. As the wait prolonged, people began to sense a feeling of low morale, and a less proactive Vice President Overseer. To add salt to injury, Freedom Newspaper, known for breaking Gambian news reported early in August that the president has had a change of heart over the vice presidency slot. The newspaper claims president Barrow had offered the job to the sister of a business tycoon. It claims further that the only reason why the appointment of Ms Njie was delayed was because the lady warming up the seat refused to relinquish the position for someone else, especially after the Constitution has been changed to make way for her. For the entire month of August, the country was left in suspense as to who becomes the VP.
So, it was a blessing in disguise when an opportunity open up for the president to leave town for a pilgrimage to Mecca. Before the trip, heavy rains rendered the community of Kuntaur homeless. But the president was leaving the country and the Vice president overseer wasn’t thrilled about performing the role of vice president when no effort was made to formalise her appointment as VP.
Caught in the middle of all this political theatre is the community of Kuntaur who had no support coming their way from the government. In the absence of the president and the silence of a dejected VP overseer, Mama Kandeh, leader of the opposition GDC stepped in to fill the void by visiting the homeless shelters in Kuntaur and providing them with food and other needs. It was a pleasant sight. Two weeks after the floods, the VP overseer was forced to visit the displaced people of Kuntaur with some help.
Finally, Barrow arrived back into the country on September 6th, and sense the lack of enthusiasm from the office of the VP overseer. That more than anything probably forced the president to end this unnecessary drama around the office of the VP by formalising the nomination of Fatoumata Tambajang as the Vice President on Friday September 8th, ending all speculation that the post has been secretly offered to Me Njie, the sister of Mustapha TAF Njie.