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The Gambia one year after Yahya Jammeh. What has changed?

It is exactly one year since, the former president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh left the country on exile to Equatorial Guinea, after 22 years in power, paving way for President Adama Barrow to become the leader of Africa’s smiling coast.

As troops from neighbouring Senegal threatened to invade The Gambia in January 2017, President Yahya Jammeh finally succumbed to diplomatic pressure to hand over to Adama Barrow, who had defeated him at elections late 2016.

Many praised his decision to leave, after he explained that he was going to leave peacefully in order to avoid violence. “I think it is not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed,” Mr Jammeh said in a brief statement on state television.

After his departure, President Adama Barrow, who had recently sought shelter in Senegal and took the oath of office in a hastily arranged ceremony at Gambia’s embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, returned and was sworn in as President of The Gambia in February.

But what has changed in The Gambia?

To some it might be too early to judge, but then one year is not a very short time for change, as some Gambians are already complaining and demanding where the reforms are; reforms promised during Barrow’s campaign?

The Gambia’s faltering economy has barely improved and tensions over mass unemployment are rising.

“Food prices are still the same, salaries have not increased, the health sector is in ruins, the education sector is a farce,” Ismaila Ceesay, a professor of political science at the University of The Gambia, stated bluntly in an AFP interview.

In terms of the economy, he argued, Barrow’s government is simply “following and inheriting the ideas of Yahya Jammeh.”

Gambians still suffer from light cuts and water shortage. In his New Year’s address, Barrow said progress had been made, but also pointed to the entrenched problems he inherited; such as a huge debt. This makes it difficult for him to be able to do anything for the country and despite aid from foreign donors it is not easy to make changes in the socio – economic sector.

On the other hand, concerning law and justice there has been some changes, there is a push for the new freedoms to be enshrined in law, and for justice to redress the crimes of the past.

Journalists who once wrote anonymously or self-censored for fear of joining dozens of colleagues who did jail time under Jammeh are now leading the push to reform media laws.

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