Home Politics & Policy From being a security guard to President. Meet Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow [Brief History]

From being a security guard to President. Meet Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow [Brief History]

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Adama Barrow

Adama Barrow, a successful property developer who has never held public office, has defied the odds to score a shock victory in The Gambia’s elections.

His victory in the small West African nation’s presidential poll is arguably an even bigger shock than that of fellow property mogul in the US, Donald Trump.

Mr Barrow’s opponent Yahya Jammeh, had ruled the country for more than two decades, but said if God willed it, his presidency could go on for “a billion years”.

Before the 51-year-old was chosen in September as the candidate to represent seven Gambian opposition parties at the election, he had spent 10 years working in property, having started his own estate agency in 2006.

In the early 2000s, he lived in the UK for several years, where he reportedly worked as a security guard at the Argos catalogue store in north London, while studying for his real estate qualifications.




British media have even reported that while guarding the shop on Holloway Road, he made a citizen’s arrest on a shoplifter, which resulted in a six-month jail term.

It was also during that period that Mr Barrow is thought to have followed in the footsteps of millions of other African football fans, choosing to support Arsenal FC, at that time his local club.

Supporters of Adama Barrow in The Gambia
Adama Barrow is popular with young Gambians

He was born in 1965, the same year his country gained independence from British colonial rule, in a small village near the market town of Basse in the east of the country.

Throughout his campaign, he pledged support for an independent judiciary, as well as increased freedom for the media and civil society.





Six things about Adama Barrow:

Adama Barrow chats with voters
Property developer Adama Barrow (pictured right) has scored the unlikeliest of election victories
  • Member of the Fula ethnic group, born in 1965, the year of Gambian independence
  • Reportedly worked as a security guard at Argos in the early 2000s while studying in UK
  • Returned home in 2006 to set up property business
  • Supports English Premier League football team Arsenal
  • Nominated as the candidate for coalition of seven opposition parties, promising greater respect for human rights
  • A devout Muslim who is reportedly married with two wives and five children

He described his opponent as a “soulless dictator” and promised to undo some of Mr Jammeh’s more controversial moves.

“We will take the country back to the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he told the Anadolu Agency.




A devout Muslim, he also criticised the lack of a two-term limit on the presidency and condemned the jailing of political opposition figures.

Speaking to the BBC three days before the election, Mr Barrow said that Gambians “had been suffering for 22 years” and were ready for change.

He scorned the achievements of his opponent, who boasted of having brought The Gambia out of the stone age with his education and health programmes.


More on President Jammeh’s rule:

  • Crack in The Gambia’s smile
  • Man in charge for 22 years

The hospitals President Jammeh had built had “no drugs… or quality doctors”, the schools “no teachers, no chairs… no good educational materials”, he said.

They were “white elephant projects”.

Although he became treasurer of the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) party in 2013, Mr Barrow was not a household name in The Gambia, described as “little-known” even by one of the local media outlets supporting him.

Mr Barrow, who has two wives and five children – according to the Gambian newspaper The Point, was especially popular among young voters – who have been badly hit by the country’s struggling economy.

Many thousands of Gambians have made the perilous journey to Europe in search of jobs.

So The Gambia’s new leader has great expectations on his shoulders – as he makes history in a country which has not had a smooth transfer of power in his lifetime.


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