There were high expectations when The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow took over from long-time leader Yahya Jammeh. But three months since his inauguration, the BBC’s Umaru Fofana found that despair is already setting in.
Just days after Yahya Jammeh lost the election to Adama Barrow, the prisons started emptying. Families were reunited, signifying an end to a time of repression and human rights abuses during the 22 years Mr Jammeh spent in power.
Although there are now no political prisoners in the Gambia, there has been no closure for Isatu Kanyi. When she heard that the new government was releasing political prisoners, Ms Kanyi went to the gates of the notorious Mile 2 prison hoping to see her husband Kanyiba walk out.
“The doors opened, many people hugged their loved ones who came out, but I did not see my husband,” she told the BBC.
Kanyiba Kanyi was one of scores, perhaps hundreds, of people who were picked up by security operatives of the dreaded National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He was detained and in September 2006 was taken to the Mile 2 prison where political prisoners were detained and tortured.
“I had hoped to see him again,” his wife said. Her son would often ask her after his father, she said, “and all I can tell him is that his father travelled”.
Ms Kanyi’s experience perhaps represents the bitter-sweet experience of many Gambians under Mr Barrow.
True the NIA has been renamed and there are plans to completely overhaul the agency. Its former head and some other senior officers are standing trial for allegedly torturing to death a political activist last year. But still there is the pall of emptiness.
The euphoria of Mr Barrow’s triumphant return to The Gambia from Senegal in January has died, giving way to sombre reflection as Gambians come to terms with reality. In January, President-elect Adama Barrow had been flown to neighbouring Senegal by West African leaders for his safety. He was sworn in at The Gambia’s embassy in Dakar on 19 January.
There is undoubtedly a new aura of freedom. In a country where people could be arrested for simply wearing a T-shirt calling for democracy, Gambians now take on their government head on.
However, young Gambians, who were on the frontline of the battle to bring Mr Barrow to power, now express disquiet and frustration and they are doing so openly on social media.