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Gambia’s President Removes ‘Islamic’ from Country’s Name

The new president of the Muslim-majority West African nation The Gambia, Adama Barrow, has removed “Islamic Republic” from the official name of his country, vowing more reforms.

International Business Times (IBTimes) reports that President Barrow, during his first press conference as the nation’s leader, said he would be overhauling the country’s intelligence agency and government institutions to make them more effective.

“The rule of the law, that will be the order of the day,” said Barrow, adding that The Gambia, where the CIA World Factbook reports Muslims constitute more than 95 percent of the population, would no longer be an “Islamic republic.”

In December 2015, then-Gambia’s autocratic President Yahya Jammeh declared the West African country an Islamic republic, making it the continent’s second, after Mauritania.

“The president justified his announcement by saying he was breaking from The Gambia’s colonial past,” reported BBC.

“Young Gambians will over time become even more vulnerable to being radicalized because this ‘Islamic republic’ will offer little new and growing inequality, poverty and the lack of jobs will remain pervasive,” it added.

Despite the change, activists and pro-democracy reportedly forced the government to rescind an executive directive in January 2016 requiring all female government staffers to cover their hair during office hours.

Former President Jammeh sparked a political crisis when he refused to step down despite losing the election in December 2016 after ruling the country for 22 years.

“Jammeh faces a series of human rights abuse allegations forcing him to go into exile as soon as Barrow took oath from neighboring Senegal,” notes IBTimes.

President Barrow, a 51-year-old former businessman, has promised a series of democratic reforms.

“The field will be level for everybody, and in total reconciliation, if people reconcile, that will unite everybody, and we want to hold that line… My government will look at all areas and there will be a complete overhaul of the system,” said the new leader

In 2013, pressure from the West over human rights violations reportedly prompted The Gambia to withdraw from the 50-plus nation grouping known as the Commonwealth, which includes the United Kingdom and most of its former colonies.

Human rights issues also fueled the U.S. decision to suspend The Gambia’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), reported BBC.

“The Gambia was never really strategic to the West, which is mostly indifferent to what happens there,” it added.

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