In his drive to replace senior officials linked to his predecessor Yahya Jammeh, Gambian President Adama Barrow has sacked the head of the armed forces. DW talks to analyst Alex Vines about the new leader’s strategy.
The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has dismissed the head of the armed forces, General Ousman Badjie, as he continues to clean house by removing senior officials linked to the dictatorial rule of his predecessor Yahya Jammeh.
Badjie, who swore allegiance to Barrow during the political standoff after the polls when Jammeh refused to step down, has been replaced by General Masanneh Kinteh. DW has been talking to Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at Chatham House in London, UK.
DW: What do these changes at the senior military level say about President Barrow?
Alex Vines: It shows that President Adama Barrow is consolidating his power. He wants to put in the key strategic positions in the new Gambian government people that he fully trusts. These reshufflings and firing of people, including the head of the army, is an indication of that process. It should be seen as unsurprising and predictable that he would be doing this.
To what extent does he control the military?
Clearly the military was very fragmented in its support for him in the standoff. He is trying to assert greater authority over the military, given that that was the one part of the Gambian institutions that he was less sure about their loyalty. And I think that’s what this is all about.
The head of the prison service has also been removed. Was this move necessary, or was it just a ploy to appease Barrow’s supporters?
Barrow also has got to appease supporters, as you say. I think there is some signaling of change, particularly because the prisons, and especially one particular prison, were a focus of torture, harassment and illicit detention. It was clear that Adama Barrow would need to reform the prison service.
Do these changes help unite the country, or do they widen the rift between Barrow supporters and opponents?
Well, we’ll see. It does need to be evident that President Barrow also retains people of technocratic ability who were involved with the previous administration of Yahya Jammeh. What would be wrong would be to get the atmosphere that this was the kind of purge and witch-hunt associated with the previous president. There aren’t enough skilled people in the Gambia to fill all these positions and there are individuals that worked in the Jammeh administration that could probably serve the Gambia very well in this important moment of rebuilding the economy and attracting international investment.
Alex Vines is a political analyst and head of the Africa Program at Chatham House in London, UK
Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu