Gambian president pledges to recover stolen assets

Adama Barrow tells Anadolu Agency of plans to re-establish rule of law in Gambia

president-adama-barrow

Gambia’s incoming government will do “everything possible” to recover assets and funds stolen during former President Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule, the new president has told Anadolu Agency.

President Adama Barrow, who came to office last month after a shock election win in December, promised to stamp out corruption in the small west African state.

“In this era, New Gambia, we are saying no to corruption,” he said in an exclusive interview conducted in his office at the State House on Wednesday.

“We are discussing amongst ourselves, the Cabinet, for the way forward. But be assured that we will do everything possible to recover any missing or stolen property that belongs to Gambians.

“It is our priority to make sure that we recover anything that is missing.”

The former property developer, who was sworn-in on Jan. 19, was speaking a day after allegations that Jammeh may have misused millions of dollars in public funds during more than two decades in power.

Jammeh, a former army officer who came to power in a 1994 coup, initially conceded the election to Barrow but then refused to stand down, forcing neighboring countries to mobilize troops to assure Barrow’s appointment.

The former president fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea last month.

A preliminary investigation by the Finance Ministry showed $5 million missing after money was diverted in 2014. Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh said the scale of misappropriation had left the economy “completely destroyed”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Barrow said the country’s debt currently stood at around $1.08 billion — 115 percent of GDP.

Transparency

Since he came to power, Gambians have called for the presidency to be audited and subjected to parliamentary oversight — something lacking during Jammeh’s rule.

“There will be transparency and financial discipline across the board,” Barrow said. “There will be an audit exercise in every department, including my office. We will do everything to ensure that everyone accounts for what you do in this country.”

Another issue at the top of Barrow’s to-do list is addressing the grievances of those affected by the former regime’s extra-judicial practices.

Under Jammeh, thousands of journalists, political opponents and ordinary citizens were jailed without trial or simply disappeared.

On Monday, former spy chief Yankuba Badjie was arrested. As director general of the National Intelligence Agency, he is said to have overseen arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, torture and murder.

Barrow has already stripped the renamed agency of its powers of arrest.

In addition, supporters of Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction Party have been charged for attacking Barrow’s followers earlier this month.

However, Barrow pledged that any action against supporters of the old regime would follow due legal process.

“We don’t have anything personal against anybody,” he told Anadolu Agency. “Everything we do, we do it on principle and we will follow the due process. We will not victimize anybody because of political differences.”

Barrow returned from the U.K. in 2006 and became the treasurer of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) in 2013. He became the focus of the opposition election campaign after UDP leader Ousainou Darboe was jailed months before the poll.

Unknown figure

Previously he had been a relatively unknown figure in Gambian politics.

The president said the new administration would ensure transparency in the mining sector. Although Gambia does not have a large mining industry or possess significant quantities of precious minerals or gems, there are deposits of lower value minerals.

During Jammeh’s tenure, the activities of mining companies were kept from the public, as was the revenue generated.

“We will make ensure information on our mines is shared with the public,” Barrow said. “We are trying to know what was happening at the mines.

“They are working on it for us to have a comprehensive report of whatever transpires there. If we get the report, we will release the information.”

In terms of Gambia’s international commitments, Barrow said the government would honor legal judgments made against the former regime by the court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The ECOWAS court found against the former British colony in three cases in recent years, awarding damages to the victims of disappearances and torture, while the investment arbitrator ruled against Gambia after Jammeh cancelled the contract of mining company Carnegie Minerals. Jammeh had refused to recognize the rulings.

“Government is continuity,” Barrow said. “It is our responsibility. This is a democratic process and we will not ignore those processes. We will see how best we can settle these matters.”

Barrow, a devout Muslim, has also promised to return Gambia to the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court and has spoken out in defense of an independent judiciary and increased media freedom.

Source: Turkey News Agency 

 

 

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