FORMER Argos security guard Adama Barrow today starts his new job as President of the Gambia, Africa’s smallest mainland country by area.

The 51-year-old was elected in a clear victory on December 1, but his dictatorial predecessor Yahya Jammeh, after conceding defeat at first, then refused to stand down, claiming “electoral abnormalities.”

As a result, the other countries of West Africa threatened to invade Gambia, and Barrow had to be sworn in as President in the Gambian embassy in Senegal, the country which entirely surrounds the Gambia. Jammeh subsequently flew into exile on Saturday, allowing Barrow to peacefully return to his native land. Barrow is a wealthy property developer who has never held elected public office.


WELL, he doesn’t have a wave hairstyle, as he is almost completely bald, and his campaign from the outset emphasised his humility and his determination to build an inclusive country – tribalism has long been the curse of Gambia.

Unlike The Donald, Barrow is not a billionaire or even close to it, and was practically unknown before he was selected as the main opposition candidate against Jammeh. He is no rabble rouser, and comes across on television as a pleasant individual with a constant smile.

He is a Muslim, with two wives, so it will be interesting to see if President Trump lets him visit the USA.


ADAMA Barrow was born in British Gambia, as the colony and protectorate was known before February 18, 1965, when the Gambia gained independence from the UK. His birth took place two days before Independence Day, so he can truly say he is as old as the nation itself.

His father came from the Mandinka tribe while his mother was of the Fula ethnic group, and he spoke the Fula language at first.

English is the official language of Gambia, however, and Barrow proved to be a very good student in his primary school and lower secondary, winning a scholarship to the prestigious Muslim High School in Gambia’s capital Banjul.

He began his working life with a gas company where he became sales manager before deciding in his 30s to retrain in London so he could enter the real estate industry in which he had an increasing interest. It was while he was in London studying that he took a job as a security guard in a branch of Argos in the north of the city, and he once made a citizen’s arrest on a shoplifter who was subsequently jailed for six months. Barrow also became an Arsenal supporter and recently posed in a replica shirt to show he was still a fan.

On returning home in 2006, Barrow founded the Majum Real Estate firm which has been very successful. He is a relatively recent entrant into politics, but had already risen to become treasurer of the United Democratic Party (UDP), and the great respect in which he is held was shown when seven opposition parties united behind his candidacy.


YES, no question. Barrow was only able to stand for the presidency because Jammeh had thrown Ousainou Darboe, the previous leader of the UDP, into jail for leading a protest over the death of an opposition activist in police custody.

Jammeh was a young army officer when he seized power in a coup in 1994. He became increasingly erratic as time went on, winning elections by the simple tactic of banning the opposition parties, and then making outrageous claims such as he could rule for a billion years if Allah willed it.

He suppressed the media, had opposition students and journalists killed, and had 1,000 people rounded up and accused of witchcraft in 2009, claiming that witches had killed his aunt.

In 2008, he vowed to kill all homosexuals in the Gambia while simultaneously claiming he had found a herbal cure for HIV/AIDS. He made similar “cure” claims about asthma and high blood pressure. Jammeh told the United Nations in 2013 that homosexuality was evil and called gay people “vermin”, all the while lining his pockets with Gambia’s wealth.

Piqued by criticism of his views, Jammeh took Gambia out of the Commonwealth – Barrow wants his country back in.


HIS five-year term of office has begin in devastating circumstances, at least in terms of his personal life. For just a few days before he formally became President, Barrow’s eight-year-old son Habibu was savaged to death by a dog. By a curious coincidence, Barack Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died two days before he was elected President.

Barrow was unable to attend his son’s funeral as he was in Senegal, but made a televised speech that indicates he will change the land, where a third of the two million population are officially poverty stricken, for the better. He said: “This is a day no Gambian will ever forget in one’s life time. This is the first time since the Gambia became independent in 1965 that Gambians have changed their government through the ballot box.

“Throughout our campaign we promised to unify our diverse people so that each would take ownership of the country, irrespective of ethnic origin, religion, gender or any other differences. Today, most Gambians are united in order to give Gambia a new start.

“Hence, as of today, I am the President of all Gambians regardless of whether you voted for me or not. My government will implement comprehensive reforms. These include constitutional, institutional and legal reforms to expand the democratic gains we have made.”

Barrow knows, however, that his biggest task is improving the economy. The recent removal of British tourists during the state of emergency will not have helped tourism, which is Gambia’s biggest earner, and the best thing Barrow could do would be to ensure stability in his beautiful but troubled country.