On Tuesday, 31 December 2019, Gambia’s President Adama Barrow justified his decision to see out the remainder of his presidency, instead of resigning after three years as part of an election promise made in 2016.
“I swore twice by the Holy Quran in Dakar and The Gambia to defend and act according to the national constitution. Under these circumstances, I cannot honour the coalition agreement in preference over the constitution. The desire to destroy dictatorship by all democratic means guided us in the development of the coalition agreement,” he said in a speech to the nation lasting 12 minutes.
The Gambian leader said after he took over the presidency in January 2017, the gravity of the institutional failures, abuse of power, human rights abuses and bad governance he had inherited from his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, became more apparent.
Barrow, whose National People’s Party was announced as the nation’s newest political party on Tuesday, 31 December 2019, claimed that he was merely listening to the voice of the people to serve a full five-year term instead of sticking with his electoral promise to head a transition government lasting three years.
He said the circumstances now dictate that national development and the national interest take precedence over partisan or sectional interest.
“While tendering my resignation is not unconstitutional as some people argued, it is irresponsible and imprudent to do so if it is not prompted and justified by principles linked to statehood,” he said. He further added that resigning from the presidency at this time would be tantamount to betraying the people.
Barrow said he would refuse to yield to the sentiments of a minority group, given that he is not ill- disposed in any way to warrant his resignation.
Consequent to this, the country’s next elections would be held according to schedule in 2021.
“For this purpose, the electoral reform process is in progress to ensure that all national elections are free and fair,” he added.
The Gambian leader warned of the greatest threat to his country and called on all stakeholders, including citizens and members of the security forces, to be vigilant and disposed towards defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Barrow said the achievements of his administration, while modest, demonstrate a conviction on his part to right the wrongs of the past and usher his country in a new path to socio-economic development.
Under his watch, several commissions have set to work, investigating the extent of both economic crimes and egregious human rights abuses thought to have been committed during Jammeh’s 22-year rule and instituting constitutional and institutional reforms.
He said nine bills have been sent to the National Assembly for consideration, including an Access to Info Bill and an Anti-Corruption Legislation Bill, which is expected to yield positive outcomes.
He, therefore, called on his compatriots to embrace the new year with optimism and confidence but urged what he called bigger sacrifices from every citizen, to transform a collective hope into tangible realities.
“From 2020 onward, sharper focus will be cast on human resource and infrastructure development, social services and institutional strengthening,” he said.
“It is the people who develop a country, but it is the people themselves who stall the progress of their nations. To avoid this, we must not violate the legal frameworks, ethical values and code of ethics that govern the discharge of our responsibilities and duties as citizens of the country,” added Barrow.