President Barrow vows to bring ex-president Jammeh to justice

Gambian President Adama Barrow, says his government is engaging the government of Equatorial Guinea in ensuring that they bring former president Yahya Jammeh to justice.

President Barrow said his government is in the process of building a case against the autocratic ruler before taken any legal actions to ensure that victims under Jammeh get justice.

“We are more than willing to engaging Equatorial Guinea in bringing Jammeh to justice. We are even engaging them at the bilateral level and at the level of the African Union,” Barrow said.

“For certain, there will be justice. That is why we are having all these commissions of inquiry into the financial activities of Jammeh and his human rights abuses. Before one takes any legal action, you must establish the truth first and that is what we are doing. We believe in justice…”

Meanwhile, the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, has pledged that he is open to reviewing any legal petition from Gambia on bringing Jammeh to justice.

“I will review it with my lawyers,” Nguema said.

Jammeh ruled Gambia for 22 years during which he was accused of several human rights abuses, including killings and disappearances.

Barrow defeated him at polls in December 2016 but no one has been brought to book for crimes committed under the autocratic ruler though 9 of his former intelligence officers are standing trial for murder of an opposition activist.

On the current security lapses noticed in the country, including the two Generals of former president Jammeh, who slipped into the country recently, President Barrow labelled the development as a ‘serious security failure.’

Brigadiers General Umpa Mendy and Ansumana Tamba reportedly brought the country on the brink of war last year – after they took sides with the former president.

They later formed part of a large security cartel that fled with Jammeh to Equatorial Guinea.

“Their return, however, is not a security threat, but we have to be vigilant…We have accepted that it was a serious security failure and we are going to learn from it.”

Barrow insisted that the Gambian army remains loyal to him despite claims they are more loyal to Jammeh.

“There is trust between me and the army. And we are doing a lot as far as the military is concerned. The environment today for the military is far better than they were before. They are better treated today, with utmost respect,” Barrow said.

“We are reforming… I am the commander in chief of the army and all their files come here… There is a lot of training going on and even some of our soldiers are going to Senegal for training very soon.”

On economic challenges, Barrow said he has changed the trend despite the challenges he inherited. “It was a very difficult year but we have made progress. The first target we had when we came to power was to stabilize the economy and boost the reserves.

“Our progress has been praised in the area of the economy. The traffic at the Gambia ports authority has increased significantly, meaning people and goods are coming into The Gambia and revenue has increased.

Reports indicate that at the time he assumed power, the Gambian economy was marked by depleting reserves, high public debt and rising poverty, among other challenges.

Barrow asserted: “The tourism sector has done very well this year. We used to have between 100,000 and 150,000 tourists in the country. This year, we are expecting over 200,000. And from here, we are going all-year round tourism season instead of 6 months.”

He also said they are negotiating debt reliefs from their international partners.

According to the Gambian Central Bank, by the beginning of the year, Gambia owes its creditors over US$1 billion, about 120% of its GDP.

“This year, our debt stock has gone down by 12%. And because the economy is growing, we have reduced domestic borrowing. This has brought down interest rates from banks and private businesses can now get loans,” he said.

On migration, he said Gambia is one of the countries that produced the highest number of migrants going to the EU through the Mediterranean Sea.

“After the regime change in December 2016, about 1,500 migrants have returned from Libya, adding onto the country’s unemployed youth population.

But Barrow says they are making fast moves.

“We have just launched a project under youth empower project that is going to create about 11,000 jobs for the youths in 3 years’ time… We are also mechanizing the farming system in the country,” he said.

The Gambian leader, speaking on the prospects of Gambia having offshore oil reserves near Senegal, said Banjul has already given licenses to two companies that are working on exploring the four potential wells the country has.

“Oil exploration is likely to start by June this year,” he said.