- Adama Barrow
- Early life, education and career
- Presidential campaign
- Ethnic identity and views on tribalism
- Personal life
Adama Barrow is a Gambian politician and real estate developer who is the third and current President of the Gambia, in office since 2017.
Born in Mankamang Kunda, a village near Basse Santa Su, he attended Crab Island Secondary School and the Muslim High School, the latter on a scholarship. He then worked for Alhagie Musa & Sons, a Gambian energy company, where he became a sales manager. Moving to London in the early 2000s, Barrow studied for qualifications in real estate and concurrently worked as a security guard. After returning to the Gambia in 2006, he founded Majum Real Estate, and was its CEO until 2016. He became the treasurer of the United Democratic Party, an opposition party, and then became its leader in September 2016 after the previous leader was jailed. Barrow was then chosen as the UDP candidate in the 2016 presidential election. It was later announced that he would stand as an independent with the backing of the opposition group Coalition 2016 (a coalition supported by the UDP and six other parties)
|3rd President of the Gambia|
19 January 2017
|Vice President||Fatoumata Tambajang (Acting)|
|Preceded by||Yahya Jammeh|
|Born||16 February 1965
Mankamang Kunda, British Gambia
|Political party||Independent (since 2016)
United Democratic Party (until 2016)
|Spouse(s)||Fatou Bah-Barrow (1st wife)
Sarjo Mballow-Barrow (2nd wife)
|Children||5 (including 1 deceased)|
Barrow won the 2016 presidential election with 43.34% of the vote, defeating long-time incumbent Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh initially accepted the result, but later reneged on this, and Barrow was forced to flee to neighbouring Senegal. He was inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Senegal on 19 January 2017, and Jammeh was forced to leave the Gambia and go into exile on 21 January. Barrow returned to the Gambia on 26 January.
Early life, education and career
Barrow was born on 16 February 1965 in Mankamang Kunda, a small village near Basse Santa Su, two days before the Gambia achieved independence from the United Kingdom. He is the son of Mamudu Barrow and Kaddijatou Jallow. He attended the local Koba Kunda primary school, and then Crab Island Secondary School in Banjul. He then received a scholarship to study at the Muslim High School. After leaving school, he worked for Alhagie Musa & Sons, a Gambian energy company, and rose through the ranks to become a sales manager. In the early 2000s, he moved to London where he studied for qualifications in real estate. Concurrently, he worked as a security guard at a local Argos store in order to finance his studies. He later described these experiences as formative, saying “Life is a process, and the UK helped me to become the person I am today. Working 15 hours a day builds a man.”
Barrow returned to the Gambia following his graduation. In 2006, he established Majum Real Estate, and from 2006 to 2016 was the chief executive officer (CEO) of the company.
2016 Gambian presidential election
On 30 October 2016, Barrow was chosen by a coalition of seven opposition parties as their endorsed candidate for the 2016 Gambian presidential election. Prior to becoming a candidate for the presidency, Barrow had not previously held any elected office, but he had been the treasurer of the United Democratic Party (UDP).He resigned from the UDP on 3 November in order to contest the election as an independent, with the full backing of Coalition 2016.
During the campaign, he promised to return the Gambia to its membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. He also promised to reform security forces, pledging to increase professionalism and separate them from politics. He also said that he would set up a temporary transition government formed of members from the opposition coalition and would step down within three years.
In the election, Barrow won with 43.34% of the vote, defeating Yahya Jammeh (who received 39.6%) and third-party candidate Mama Kandeh (who received 17.1%).
Presidential transition and inauguration
Initially, Jammeh indicated that a smooth handover of power would take place. However, on 10 December, he declared that he “totally” rejected the result of the election. This was met with international outcry. The UN Security Council called on Jammeh to “respect the choice of the sovereign people of The Gambia” and the African Union declared Jammeh’s statement “null and void”; Jammeh’s refusal to step down was criticised by the United States, neighbouring Senegal, ECOWAS, and others. Fearing for his safety, Barrow left the Gambia to Senegal while urging Jammeh to step down. Jammeh appealed his loss in the election to the Supreme Court. When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court declared that the court would not be able consider the case for at least four more months, Jammeh declared a state of emergency to try prevent Barrow from being sworn in as president.
Barrow was then sworn in as President of the Gambia at the Gambian embassy in Dakar, Senegal, on 19 January 2017. On the same day, military forces from Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana entered the Gambia in an ECOWAS military intervention involving land, sea, and air forces to compel Jammeh to leave. The military forces of the Gambia did not oppose the intervention, which only met with isolated minor clashes near Jammeh’s hometown of Kanilai. ECOWAS halted the incursion after only a few hours and gave Jammeh his last chance to step down. On 21 January, Jammeh left the Gambia for an ECOWAS-arranged exile, paving the way for the transition of power.
On 26 January, Barrow returned to the Gambia, while about 2,500 ECOWAS troops remained there to stabilise the country. Barrow asked for the ECOWAS troops to stay for six months. A crowd in the hundreds were waiting at Banjul International Airport to welcome him home.
On February 18, 2017, Barrow took the oath of office a second time, within the Gambia, at an inauguration ceremony held at Independence Stadium in Bakau outside the capital Banjul.
Cabinet formation and executive appointments
On 28 January 2017, Barrow announced that his cabinet choices would have to declare their assets before taking up their posts. 10 of the 18 ministers were sworn in on 1 February, at a ceremony at Kairaba Beach Hotel, Barrow’s temporary residence. Among the appointments, the critical roles of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs were filled by Ousainou Darboe and Amadou Sanneh, respectively. The Gambia’s first female presidential candidate Isatou Touray was appointed as Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, and former exile Mai Ahmed Fatty was appointed as Minister of the Interior. Ba Tambadou was appointed as Minister of Justice and Attorney General but was not present to be sworn in.
The Point noted the absence of any members of coalition party PDOIS, contrary to the coalition agreement, and it was announced that further appointments would be technocrats, not politicians. Also, Amie Bojang-Sissoho, a feminist activist, was appointed as Director of Press and Public Relations for the Office of the President.
Human rights and other reforms
On 28 January 2017, Barrow announced that the official long-form name of the Gambia would be reverted from ‘The Islamic Republic of the Gambia’ to ‘The Republic of the Gambia’, reverting a change made by Jammeh in 2015. He also said that he would ensure freedom of the press in the country. On 14 February, Gambia began the process of returning to its membership of the Commonwealth of Nations.
In his inaugural address on February 18, 2017, Barrow announced that he had ordered the release of all persons detained without trial under the repressive regime of Jammeh. A total of 171 prisoners held in Gambia’s infamous 2 Mile Prison were set free. Barrow also pledged to have the Gambia end human rights violations and join the International Criminal Court. On 23 March, Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou announced that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and offer reparations to victims of former President Yahya Jammeh’s government.
He also dismissed General Ousman Badjie, the Chief of the Defence Staff, along with 10 other senior staffers in February 2017. Badjie was replaced by former chief of staff Masaneh Kinteh. David Colley, the director of the prison system was also dismissed and arrested along with 9 men suspected of being members of Jungulars, an alleged death squad under Yahya Jammeh. The ban on gambling enforced by Jammeh was lifted by him in May 2017, in an effort to attract investors and create employment opportunities.
National Intelligence Agency reform
On 28 January 2017, Barrow announced that he would rename and restructure the country’s intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Agency, pointing out its association with the oppressive regime of Yahya Jammeh. He said the NIA was “an institution that has to continue”, but added “the rule of the law, that will be the order of the day”. He said that additional training would be given to NIA operatives. On 31 January, Barrow announced that the NIA would be called the State Intelligence Services (SIS). The next day, he fired the NIA Director General, Yankuba Badjie, and replaced him with former NIA Deputy Director Musa Dibb. Barrow also stripped the NIA of its law enforcement functions and temporarily occupied all NIA detention centres with police officers. As part of Barrow’s reforms, former head of NIA Yankuba Badjie and director of operations Sheikh Omar Jeng who are accused of human rights violations were arrested on 20 February and were being investigated for potential abuses of power.
In February 2016, one of Barrow’s first foreign policy actions was to overturn the decision made by Jammeh in October 2016 to leave the International Criminal Court. The process was formalised by a letter sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on 10 February, with the government expressing its commitment “to the promotion of human rights,” and to “the principles enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Ethnic identity and views on tribalism
He has been reported to be a member of the Fula ethnic group, which is the second largest ethnic group in the Gambia (the largest being the Mandinka). He has also been reported to be Mandinka, based on his father’s ethnicity, but more identified with Fulas in social and cultural terms, having had a Mandinka father and a Fula mother. He grew up speaking the Fula language in a village and district that are primarily Fula, and both of his wives are Fula.
When asked about the topic and his views on what he envisions for the Gambia, he said he has mixed ethnic background and that he is not a tribalist:
It would be an inclusive country where tribalism will not have a place. I am the least tribalists person you will ever see. I have mixed ethnic blood in me. I am a Sarahule, Mandinka and Fula. Two of my sisters from the same mum and dad are married to Jolas. So tribe is not important. What is important is that we are all Gambians and should unite and work for the progress of our country.
Barrow is a devout Muslim and says that his faith guides his life and politics. He practices polygamy and has two wives, Fatoumatta Bah and Sarjo Mballow. Both wives are from the Fula ethnic group. With his wives, he has four living children. Habibu Barrow, his eight-year-old son, died after being bitten by a dog on 15 January 2017. Barrow could not attend his son’s funeral because he was in Senegal for security reasons, following ECOWAS recommendations. The dog that mauled Habibu was put down on 1 February 2017 by vets in a clinic in Abuko.
He is also a fan of the English football club Arsenal. His support for the team started in the early 2000s when he was residing in England.