In 2016 before general elections in the Gambia, opposition political parties formed a coalition hoping it could be strong enough to defeat Yahya Jammeh at the polls.
Members of the coalition agreed and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a key component relating to the how things will run should the coalition win the election.
Adama Barrow who was chosen as leader promised to only serve for a three-year transition period after winning elections.
President Barrow was sworn into office in 2017 and his promise to stay in office for three years is due in December this year.
For many Gambia’s Barrow respecting this promise will be significant but their hopes will be dashed because Mr. Barrow doesn’t intend leaving office anytime soon.
According to local media the president does not intend calling fresh elections until the end of constitutional mandated five year tenure which expires in 2021.
A Gambian government official Hamat Bah told a political meeting in Brikama, West Coast Region on June 15 that “President Barrow is the president of the Gambia and would remain president until 2021. This is not in doubt.”
He adds that “You [the president] were given a certificate of return by the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission saying you have been elected for five years and no one can undo that in this country.”
Barrow not quitting now
President Barrow himself has told the BBC in a recent interview that “the three years was a verbal agreement. But in reality it is not feasible.”
He defended his intention not to fulfill that promise saying “we have things to do. We feel that we can do that in five years. But three years is not possible.”
Many Gambians fear Barrow could even seek re-election in 2021 and cling to power like his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh.
There are plans to already launch a nationwide protest titled “Three Years Jot Nah Movement” to force the president to respect the 2016 agreement which he claims was only verbal.
Mr Bah again told the political rally last month that “We are not worried about people wanting to go out and protest. We are in a democracy and they have a right to do that but they must follow the due process.
The law is here for everybody and no one will be mistreated or manhandled as long as they respect the laws of this land.
“We are not panicking or worrying about Three Years Jot Nah. We will remain solid and firm on the ground. We will maintain security and protect Gambians at every level in this country.
No body is above the law and President Barrow will never waiver from his responsibility to protect and preserve the integrity of this country.”
Gambians expect promise to be fulfilled
So how will the Gambian people respond to possibility of Barrow finishing his constitutional mandate in 2021, defying his own “verbal” promise of three years?
What happens if he again seeks to re-run for the presidency in 2021?
A prominent Gambian Islamic scholar, Imam Ba-Kawsu Fofana told local media outlet Fatu Network that Adama Barrow is “is now a changed man and is aggressive.
President Barrow is getting more and more aggressive; lots of sackings and is seeing many as enemies now.”
Fofana warns of a serious crisis if Barrow doesn’t fulfill his promise of staying in power for three years.
He adds that Barrow’s “government is not here to stay long in office as per the coalition agreement.
The coalition was formed based on knowledge and foresight for the fact that no one party can defeat Jammeh at the polls. So, they came together to change the government and make reforms.
The coalition president should not be sit-tight because that is not good for the country. I think Barrow should honour his promise to the people.”
There are anticipations that Gambians could stage series of protests if they feel deceived by Barrow, should he cling unto power.
But there are signals the feeling among Barrow’s critics is that he must respect his promise to leave power after three years.
Gambians unhappy with government?
Many Gambians appear disappointed with the current government. They were promised a new wave of governance after the exit of Jammeh.
But there are still concerns about growing unemployment among young Gambians and reports of corruption among public officials.
President Barrow in 2017 while marking his 100 days in office said “Gambians are a bit impatient but I understand, it’s has been a long time, it’s 22 years; and they have put all their efforts together to make this change. The expectations are very high, I will not say we are slow but we are calculating our steps.”
He has however attempted to address some significant issues relating to reconciling the country after decades of Jammeh’s rule.
Barrow set up the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate happenings during the Jammeh era.
Over the next two years, the commission members will investigate the origin of the coup Jammeh carried out in 1994 and his subsequent actions while in office.
The 11-member commission can make criminal referrals with many victims hoping Jammeh returns to Gambia to face trial for the abuses it investigates.
Jammeh is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea and the country’s President Teodoro Obiang has vowed to ensure that Jammeh isn’t extradited to Gambia.