The democratic strides recently made by The Gambia can be directly attributed to its new president, Adama Barrow. This African leader is going above and beyond to restore the rule of law, deepen democracy, advance transitional justice and transform the security sector
After 22 years of authoritarian rule, The Gambia is making commendable strides towards democratic reform with President Adama Barrow at the helm. So far the country's democratic reforms have advanced due to political will, national ownership and international backing.
Adopted by President Barrow in January 2018, The Gambia's reform programme, outlined in the 2018-2021 National Development Plan (NDP), seeks to restore the rule of law, deepen democracy, advance transitional justice and transform the security sector. The plan, which came about after numerous consultations with stakeholders from local government, civil society organisations, the private sector and international partners, is said to be ambitious, but President Barrow is meeting the challenge head on.
The leader is putting his wallet where his election promises were by pledging 10% of his salary to the NDP. He made the announcement after his return from a donor conference specially held for The Gambia in Brussels, where he secured US$1,7 billion from multiple donors to support the NDP.
This is the latest in The Gambia's democratic and economic gains in the post Yahya Jammeh era. Jammeh's rule of more than two decades has left significant institutional decay, human rights violations and financial impropriety.
Barrow came into power having outlined specific top priorities to counter the effects of the previous regime and to avoid a recurrence by bringing in electoral laws to stop leaders from hanging on to power for decades.
"We will look at everything and avoid making any mistake to arrive at a final document. We want the democratic process to be very smooth in the future. We want a level playing field for every politician in the future - that is our goal. We need laws that will favour everybody," President Barrow told Al Jazeera in December.
A new wave of leadership
Barrow is the second African leader this week to make a donation from his salary. South Africa's Cyril Ramaphosa donated half of his presidential salary to a fund in the name of the country's first black president, Nelson Mandela.
"I have decided to contribute half of my presidential salary to a fund that will be managed by the Nelson Mandela Fund," President Ramaphosa said.
"This is a private, citizen-driven initiative that will ask all of those with the means to contribute a small portion of their salaries to support the many projects to build the nation.
"This fund, through discussions that we have had with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, will be launched on 18 July 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of Madiba's birth and will be called the Nelson Mandela Thuma Mina Fund," he said during a parliamentary debate on the presidency's budget vote.