Adama Barrow, born on February 16, 1965, will be sworn in on Thursday as President of The Gambia, having won the presidential election of 2016. He is a member of the United Democratic Party (UDP). Prior to his presidential campaign, he was the treasurer of the UDP and operated a real estate agency. He established the agency, Majum Real Estate, in 2006 after returning from studies in London, England. He was initially going to become President on January 19, 2017, but on January 18, the Gambia Parliament, voted to extend incumbent Yahya Jammeh’s term by 90 days.
Early life and education
Barrow was born in Mankamang Kunda, a small Jimara village near Basse. He first attended the local Koba Kunda Primary School and then Crab Island Secondary School in Banjul before receiving a scholarship for Muslim High School. After graduation, he worked for Alhagie Musa & Sons and rose through the ranks until he became sales manager. Barrow then moved to London in the early 2000s, where he studied for a degree in real estate, while working as a security guard at an Argos catalogue store to finance his studies.
Barrow returned to the Gambia following his graduation. In 2006 he established Majum Real Estate and has since been chief executive officer (CEO) of the company.
In 2016, Barrow was chosen by a coalition of seven opposition parties as their endorsed candidate for the 2016 Gambian presidential election. Prior to becoming a candidate for the presidency, Barrow had not previously held any political office. He had been the treasurer of the UDP. He went on to defeat the long-term incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, in an upset. He will be sworn in about sixty days from his election, an event that will mark the country’s first change of presidency in 22 years and its first change of presidency by democratic means since independence from Britain in 1965. Jammeh initially indicated that a smooth handover of power would take place, but days later said that he rejected the election result.
Barrow has called for Yahya Jammeh to give up power peacefully. The defeated president refused to accept the elections results, as he appealed his loss to the Supreme Court. Jammeh has also vowed to remain in power, until the court’s decision, expected to be in May.
He has promised to return The Gambia to its membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. He also promised to reform security forces, suggesting that they should be “distanced from politics”.
Barrow has said that, if elected, he would set up a temporary transition government formed of members from the opposition coalition and would step down within three years.
Barrow has two wives and five children. He is a devout Muslim, who says faith guides his life and politics and often invokes Allah in his speeches. He supports the English football team Arsenal.
Habibu Barrow, his eight-year-old son, died after being bitten by a dog on January 15, 2017. Barrow could not attend his son’s funeral due to staying in Senegal for security reasons, following ECOWAS recommendation.
Ethnic identity and views on tribalism
He has been reported to be a member of the Fula ethnic group, which the United Democratic Party (UDP) has said is the second largest ethnic group in The Gambia (the largest being the Mandinka). He has also been reported to be Mandinka, based on his father’s ethnicity, but more identified with Fulas in social and cultural terms, having had a Mandinka father and a Fula mother. He grew up speaking the Fula language in a village and district that are primarily Fula, and both of his wives are Fula.
When asked about the topic and his views on what he envisions for The Gambia, he said he has mixed ethnic background and that he is not a tribalist:
It would be an inclusive country where tribalism will not have a place. I am the least tribalists person you will ever see. I have mixed ethnic blood in me. I am a Sarahule, Mandinka and Fula. Two of my sisters from the same mum and dad are married to Jolas. So, tribe is not important. What is important is that we are all Gambians and should unite and work for the progress of our country.
For a better society.