Gambia: New President Names Female VP Who Vowed to Prosecute Jammeh

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President Adama Barrow has appointed as deputy leader a woman who had vowed to prosecute exiled leader Yahya Jammeh. Barrow, still in Senegal, said the appointment was designed to address gender imbalance.

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Gambian President Adama Barrow’s newly appointed vice president, Fatoumata Tambajang, is a former United Nations Development Program staffer who was instrumental in uniting Gambia’s opposition parties against Jammeh.

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Tambajang became a controversial figure after telling “The Guardian” newspaper late last year that Jammeh, who took power in a coup 22 years ago, would be prosecuted for crimes committed by his regime. Shortly after her comments were published Jammeh backtracked on conceding his December 1 election defeat, triggering a political crisis.

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She also argued for a national commission for asset recovery to recover land and goods Jammeh allegedly seized for his own gain.

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Tambajang was the first cabinet member to be announced by the newly-inaugurated Barrow, who is still in neighboring Senegal amid fears for his safety.

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Government spokesman Halifa Sallah said the rest of Barrow’s government would be unveiled on Tuesday.

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Ex-leader Jammeh dissolved the government, half of whom had already resigned, during a political crisis in which he refused to step down despite last month’s election loss and losing his mandate in January.

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After weeks of negotiations and an incursion by military forces assembled by a West African regional bloc, Jammeh flew to Equatorial Guinea on Saturday.

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As part of his deal to leave peacefully, he was assured immunity from prosecution and as Equatorial Guinea is not a member of the International Criminal Court he could not be extradited for crimes against humanity.

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Diplomacy avoided bloodshed

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The UN said Monday that preventive diplomacy had avoided bloodshed, restored democracy and averted a “humanitarian disaster.”

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UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said if diplomacy had not worked, “we would have seen a far worse situation.”

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Barrow’s spokesman said he preferred a truth and reconciliation committee to deal with grievances against Jammeh’s regime, but many Gambians favored the view of his new vice president.

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Rights groups alleged that sections of the security services were under Jammeh’s personal control and were responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention.

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Jammeh drained state coffers

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Before Jammeh left on the weekend he siphoned off about US$11.5 million (10.6 million euros) from state coffers and flew out luxury vehicles, associates of Barrow have alleged.

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“Over two weeks, over 500 million dalasi were withdrawn” by Jammeh, said Barrow adviser Mai Fatty. “As we take over, the government of The Gambia is in financial distress.”

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That amount represented 1.2 percent of Gambia’s 2015 GDP, according to World Bank figures.

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Gambia’s central bank deposits were “intact,” a spokesman for Barrow said Monday.

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Troops from the West African bloc known as ECOWAS have continued to remove Gambian soldiers from the president’s official residence, State House. They also took charge of a Republican Guard barracks training center in Bakau, just outside the capital, Banjul.

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In the final days of the crisis the leader of Gambia’s armed forces defected from Jammeh and swore allegiance to Barrow, but concerns remained over the force’s historical loyalty to Jammeh.

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aw/cmk (AP, AFP)

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