Gambia president-elect Adama Barrow talks to Al Jazeera
December 6, 2016
Yundum, Gambia – The Gambian opposition leader, Adama Barrow, has won the presidential election, ending the 22-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh in the West African country.
News of Barrow’s victory prompted thousands to take to the streets of the capital Banjul in celebration – some on foot while others rode in cars and trucks and on motorbikes – as confused soldiers looked on.
Following his victory, Al Jazeera caught up with Barrow for an interview. The transcript of the interview has been edited for clarity.
Al Jazeera: During your address to the nation and during the campaign, you pledged to carry out some electoral reforms, including a two-term limit for president. Can you elaborate?
Adama Barrow: We promised to do a lot of things, including electoral reforms. 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.
Al Jazeera: What do you mean by a level playing field?
Adama Barrow: We need laws that will favour everybody.
Al Jazeera: You also talked about reforms in public service that is free from corruption and nepotism. How do you intend to go about it given that your two predecessors failed to do so?
Adama Barrow: Well, if they failed to do it that does not mean it cannot be done. Nobody thought we could change this government by the ballot box. But the mentality of the people, the social media, played a role in voter education.
We will educate the people to carry the reforms and guarantee job security. That will help people to continue working hard and make sure Gambia benefits from the civil service.
Al Jazeera: What are some of the civil services reforms that you want to pursue immediately?
Adama Barrow: The focus of our civil service reforms are job security and review of salaries. These are the main issues that we want to start immediately.
Al Jazeera: Do you want to increase the salary of the civil services staff?
Adama Barrow: We will look at it very critically, analyse it and calculate the inflation level, living standard of Gambians, and then measure the salaries.
Agriculture: Gambia’s backbone
Al Jazeera: Agriculture was very high on your agenda during the campaign trail, how do you intend to boost the productivity of agriculture?
Adama Barrow: We don’t have minerals here. The backbone of this country is agriculture. Basically, you can say 75 percent [of the people] are involved in agriculture, but they need guidance, they need government to bring in policies that will guide the farmers in improving the farming sector.
In the past, the government made efforts in that aspect. Maybe there were shortcomings but they tried setting up farming centres all over the country that was helping every farmer to do very well. And I think we will improve on that.
Under President Yahya’s government, all those farming centres collapsed completely, and they no longer exist. Farmers were not able to get help from anywhere, nothing like that.
Al Jazeera: You also spoke about a focus on technology, energy production and mining. Can you shed more light on this?
Adama Barrow: Without energy there cannot be production, without energy it is very difficult for a nation to develop because we are in the 21st century now.
Every technology has to use energy so that is fundamental. If there is no energy, there is no work, everything stops. It is something that is very, very important.
We also plan to encourage mining to help develop this country. If we are lucky to mine anything that will contribute to the economy of this country.
Mining and environmental protection
Al Jazeera: The current mining activities are based in the coastal areas. But coastal settlements are saying that these mining activities are threatening their environment. How will you strike a balance between mining and environmental protection?
Adama Barrow: You know when you are doing these things, you have to calculate all the aspects, but at the same time, part of what is generated from there should go back to the people, should protect the environment. When we get there, we will look at that.
Al Jazeera: You also talked about judicial reform, what exactly do you want to reform in the judiciary?
Adama Barrow: We want a free and independent judiciary whereby nobody can influence the judiciary. We will put laws in place to protect those people running the judiciary. They will have that job security, they will have that independence. We will reduce the powers of the president.
Al Jazeera: Youths played a very pivotal role in electing you into the office. What do you have in store for them?
Adama Barrow: We will not forget the youth. We will focus on job creation so that we can win their confidence.
We have lot of things that we can do in this country, even the fishing industry is under-exploited. We will exploit that area. We will encourage investors to go into manufacturing and other industries.
Manufacturing is a big market. When you produce, you can export. When you produce, you can create employment so we are looking into that. We are in the 21st century so we must produce, we cannot just be consuming without producing.
So with that I think that will give encouragement to the people and it will win the confidence of the people and will create jobs for the youth.
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