BY: Basidia Drammeh
A seismic Cabinet reshuffle took place in Banjul today which saw big heads roll, including the Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang. Though the Government has not stated the circumstances that have precipitated the move, it is largely believed that the recent developments have prompted President Adama Barrow to inject new blood into his crisis-ridden Cabinet. The Barrow-led Government has been severely criticized for being mostly reactive to various crises confronting his fledgling administration, rather than take a proactive approach which ensures the prevention of crises before they spin out of hand.
The straw that broke the Camel’s back is the latest crisis in Faraba. The Faraba community has been complaining of what they termed as unlawful sand mining by the so-called Julake Community and decided to stage a protest against the sand-miners, given that the activity has undermined their farming. The paramilitary police commonly known as Police Intervention Unity (PIU) arrived at the scene to quell the protest using live ammunition against defenseless protesters, which resulted in the death of three villages in cold blood, while several others sustained injuries. Consequently, The Government came under severe criticism over its handling of the crisis, with some even calling on the President to resign.
Shocked and shaken by the event, President Barrow took a number of measures to remedy the situation. Barrow visited the victims at Edward Small Teaching Hospital, accepted the resignation of the Inspector General of Police and paid a visit to Faraba where he met the local community and delivered a powerful speech underscoring the importance of unity and reconciliation.
Today’s bold move fits in the context of responding to numerous calls on President Barrow to reshuffle his Cabinet where those found wanting to get axed. Agriculture Minister Omar Jallow Alias OJ has been dropped. The latter has been recently the subject of allegations that he has been involved in the sale of expired fertilizers. Youth Minister Henry Gomez has been recently ridiculed for his Permanent Secretary whispering in his ears to help him respond to questions as he was being grilled by MPs at Parliament. Meanwhile, the Minister of Health Soffie has been shown the exit door apparently for her abysmal failure to bring about any tangible reforms to the Ministry of Health. Gambia’s healthcare system is in dire crisis and the people are pinning great hopes on Dr. Isatou Touray to shake up the crisis-ridden sector to achieve desirable goals.
The biggest winner in the Cabinet reshuffle is Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, the Leader of the United Democratic Party, who has been elevated to the position of Vice President, apparently waving the way for him to become the next President of the Gambia. Veteran journalist Demba Jawo has equally lost his post. Though his credentials are unquestionable, his ability to articulate government’s policies have been doubted. The biggest loser, on the other hand, is Fatoumata Tambajang who has now been moved to the Foreign Service. Though the latter has been lauded for her leading role in forming the Coalition that has unseated long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh, she has been lately accused of nepotism and favoritism.
It is mind-boggling why the Interior Minister Ebrima Mballow has not been relieved despite persistent calls on him to resign over the Faraba Crisis. The President might be considering his options so it is better to wait than prejudge.
It’s hoped that with this Cabinet reshuffle, the Barrow-led government would regain popular confidence to deal with a myriad of crises and challenges facing the government to undo the damage incurred by Jammeh’s 22 years of misrule and to realize his much-talked-about National Development Plan.
In embarking on this reshuffle, Barrow is asserting his authority.
One last thing, I am curious to know why major decisions are taken on Friday!