Gambian President Adama Barrow recently ordered the release of all prisoners detained without trial throughout the country.
President Barrow gave the order during his official inauguration ceremony at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, a town 20km west of the capital Banjul, according to Al Jazeera, “Orders have already been given for all those detained without trial to be released,” he said.
With President Barrow’s pronouncement, at least 171 inmates held in the Gambia’s notorious Mile 2 Prison facility are expected to be set free, with nearly all of them being detained on former President Yahya Jammeh’s orders.
Jammeh’s 22 years in office were marked by widespread human rights abuses, a gag on the free press, and arbitrary abductions or imprisonments of the opposition and political dissidents.
In his speech, President Barrow also promised to implement a slew of legal reforms that would correct the years of misrule of Jammeh’s administration.
“It [the legal reform] intends to enforce constitutional provisions that are entrenched to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens,” President Barrow said.
Concerning the scores of Gambians forcefully abducted or declared missing during Jammeh’s regime, President Barrow promised to direct the attorney general and Minister of Justice to open investigations in to their disappearances.
“An appropriate commission will be established to conduct inquiries in to their disappearances,” he said.
A New Era
At President Barrow’s February 18th inauguration, thousands of enthusiastic Gambians packed in to the stadium to celebrate a day that has been described as the birth of a new era for the Gambia, while also coinciding with the country’s 52nd independence anniversary from Great Britain.
Present at Mr. Barrow’s inauguration were leaders (or their representatives) from several west African countries, including the presidents of Ivory Coast, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal.
Mr. Barrow’s inauguration came nearly a month after he took the oath of office and was sworn in, in neighboring Senegal at a brief ceremony in the Gambian embassy in Dakar.
Senegal served as a safe haven for Barrow as he fled the uncertainty and insecurity that had gripped the Gambia following Jammeh’s refusal to hand over power after his defeat at the polls in the December 1st presidential elections.
However, a combination of pressure from the international community and the threat of a military intervention by ECOWAS forced Jammeh to stand down and flee to Equatorial Guinea last month.