The Gambia’s president, Adama Barrow, has named senior politician Fatoumata Tambajang as deputy leader, as regional troops continued security sweeps to prepare for his return to the country from neighbouring Senegal.
The announcement of Tambajang’s appointment will be followed by the unveiling of the rest of Barrow’s cabinet later on Tuesday, according to presidential spokesperson Halifa Sallah.
Tambajang, a former minister and United Nations Development Programme staffer, was the architect of an opposition coalition that helped Barrow defeat longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh in a December 1 presidential election.
She made headlines last month when she told The Guardian newspaper that Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, would be prosecuted for alleged crimes committed by his regime.
Following her comments, Jammeh, who had initially conceded defeat, announced he no longer recognised the result, triggering a protracted political crisis which ended when he flew into exile late on Saturday.
Barrow, who fled to Senegal earlier this month for security reasons, was sworn in as president on January 19 at The Gambia’s embassy in Dakar.
His return date has not yet been fixed, and the appointment of his cabinet is aimed at filling a void created by his absence.
The armed forces have pledged loyalty to him, though troops from West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which entered the country last week to pressure Jammeh to step down, continued clearing the presidential compound in advance of Barrow’s arrival.
They also took over a Republican Guard barracks training centre in Bakau, just outside the capital, Banjul.
On Sunday, a Barrow aide accused Jammeh of plundering millions of dollars from the state coffers in his final weeks in power before flying to Equatorial Guinea.
“Over two weeks, over 500 million dalasi ($11 million) were withdrawn” by Jammeh, Mai Fatty said in Dakar. “As we take over, the government of The Gambia is in financial distress.”
Jammeh also took luxury cars he piled onto a Chadian cargo plane, Fatty said.
In addition to the accusations surrounding Jammeh’s wealth, sections of the security services under the ex-ruler personal control have been accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings, torture and arbitrary detention during his rule, rights groups say.
A truth and reconciliation committee is Barrow’s “preferred method” of dealing with grievances against the previous government, according to his spokesman, but many Gambians take the harder line of his new vice president.
Critics have also raised concerns over a statement issued by the UN, regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union that seemed to offer Jammeh comfortable guarantees in return for his exit.
The statement said “no legislative measures” would be taken that against Jammeh or his family, noting that he could return when he pleased and that property “lawfully” belonging to him would not be seized.