New Gambian President Adama Barrow says he will establish a truth and reconciliation commission to examine allegations of misrule during former president Yahya Jammeh’s 22 years in power.
“Twenty-two years is a long time,” said Barrow in an interview Sunday with VOA. “People need to know the truth.”
An adviser to Barrow told reporters Monday that before leaving the country on Saturday, Jammeh stole $11 million from state coffers and had luxury cars shipped out by plane. Rights groups previously accused him of human rights abuses during his long reign, including the imprisonment of political opponents and journalists.
Jammeh left Gambia on Saturday under threat of military action by from the West African bloc ECOWAS. The former president had refused to accept Barrow’s victory in the December 1 presidential election.
Journalist Sainey Marenah spoke to Barrow in Dakar, where he was sworn in Friday at the Gambian embassy.
The new president said he turned down a request from Jammeh to remain in Gambia, on the grounds that he could not guarantee Jammeh’s security.
Barrow, 51, said his government will push for comprehensive electoral reforms to ensure future presidents face term limits.
“We want to bring in a very good foundation for democracy and also strong pillars of democracy where terms are limited,” he said. “Presidents will always be very careful. We will avoid what has happened with Yahya Jammeh being here for 22 years and never wanted to leave power.”
Barrow said his administration will work to professionalize the Gambian security forces and the army.
“We want to get a very disciplined force that is organized; a force that has training. We want [to] separate the forces. Internal security is police. We want to get the police to do internal security. The military is our defense. There will be serious reform to get that done,” he said.
Barrow said he does not intend to retain Jammeh’s Cabinet ministers, but he will reassess the security forces to see where they fit because they are all Gambians.
To foreign investors, Barrow said Gambia, often referred to as the “smiling coast,” is back.
“What we are going to tell them is the door is open,” he said. “Investment people cannot invest if the environment is not there. The environment is good governance, security, rule of law. These are the things that can encourage business people. And that will be first class in the Gambia. We will make sure people are secure so they can invest. With that investment, we can create jobs, we can develop this country.”
He refused to say how many terms he would like to serve, saying that decision will be left to Gambians.
“We are here, giving this responsibility, based on trust. We want execute that to the fullest. Now it’s up to the Gambian people to decide.”