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Barrow: 'Security challenges remain' a year after Jammeh

Omar Wally Banjul, The Gambia
January 26, 2018

Gambian President Adama Barrow has said that during his first year in office his country has made tremendous progress, especially within the economic sector but security challenges remain.

President Adama Barrow
Image: DW

DW Exclusive interview: President Adama Barrow

In an exclusive interview with DW in the capital Banjul, Barrow reiterated his commitment to fight corruption and improve on security countrywide, especially at the country's borders. He also recognized Europe's support in revamping the country's growth after the turbulent times and isolation that The Gambia went through under President Yahya Jammeh.

DW: What are you doing to fight corruption in the country?

President Adama Barrow: I mentioned it when I met with government officials that from now there will be a review every quarter. That means everyone has to account for every quarter and we start this April 2018.

DW: President Barrow, you took office just a year ago and you promised you would improve the economy. But Gambians are still faced with unemployment and people are unhappy. What went wrong?

Nothing went wrong. I think we have fulfilled our promise. We inherited a bankrupt nation with less than one month's import cover and we were able to work hard to get it to four months or more.  The bank interests have gone down, lending rates have gone down, and treasury bills have gone down. 

So what will your government do to improve the economy?

We have to build institutions and I think at the central bank they have seen that and at the finance level they have seen that. Today, the governor of the central bank is the governor of the year in Africa because of the hard work they have been doing. We are going to continue with these policies to make sure we stabilize the economy further. We encourage investors to come to The Gambia but there must be some kind of respect for the rule of law in this country and independence of the judiciary. That increases investor confidence.  I think this is happening now. If you look at the traffic at the ports now, our income at the ports has increased by 25 percent within a short period and I believe we are on track.

Read more : Barrow: 'Press freedom has been restored'

What do you expect from the international community?

I think the international community is giving us support. We are now back to the Millenium Challenge cooperation. The [suspension from] AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) is lifted, so we are expecting a lot from the international community. The donors' conference is coming and there is a lot of support as far as the international community is concerned. Even our security adviser who is part of the reforms - it is the international community who is paying - so they are giving us a lot of support. 

You established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but human rights activists say the process is very slow. Why is this so?

Government is a process. There is a process that has to take place doing those kind of things, setting up a commission of enquiries. Even if one was just to jump and do it, we don't want to do it that way. But it's coming up in February. 

Migration remains a major issue and Germany is bearing the brunt. What is your government doing to stem the tide?

This is a very important question. I think there are rumors that we have signed [an agreement] with the Germans to return Gambian migrants from Germany. That is not the truth. We had a very honest discussion with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier when he came here [in December 2017]. Our message was very clear, that this is not a Gambian problem. This is a problem that needs to be looked into in a wider context. Germany and other countries must all be part of that. We should look for a way out, a format that consults everybody in this. It is everybody's business.  We also encourage them to invest back home because people have lost confidence. They don't have jobs. Let them invest back home, we can create jobs here so that people will stay at home [in The Gambia].

So you did not sign any deportation order with the German president?

We didn't sign anything [like that]. 

There will be a European Union summit in Lisbon in March. What plans do you have for this?

The Europeans are our biggest partners and our biggest donors. We are on the same wave length with the European Union and I think they have a high regard for The Gambia, especially during this short period and our performance. The EU is important for us as far as the donors' conference is concerned.

In terms of security, many Gambians are saying security has been compromised.  Are you in charge of this country?

I would not say security is compromised. But we accept that we have failed as far as security is concerned in recent days.  As a nation, we always learn from our mistakes. We are taking steps to prevent such things happening in this country. But I think it has been exaggerated.

But you have been accused of not saying anything. Why is President Barrow silent?

(Laughs) It's not only talking, it's action that is important. We have taken action at the airport, with all senior security personnel, police, immigration etc. They have all been suspended. Some of them were with the police. The question is how was this possible?

Editor's note:

President Barrow was referring to two former generals who served under President Yahya Jammeh. The sneaked back into the country unnoticed through Banjul airport. This was seen as a major security breach and negligence on the part of the migration officials and other security personnel at the airport. The two generals are currently being detained at the Yundum Military Barracks.

Adama Barrow has been president of the Gambia since January 2017

Interview: Omar Wally