The Gambia’s first female barrister was sworn in Tuesday as National Assembly speaker, days after the African country’s United Democratic Party emerged from decades in opposition to win an absolute parliamentary majority.
Mariam Jack Denton, the first woman to be called to The Gambian Bar, thanked President Adama Barrow, who ousted longtime leader Yahya Jammeh following December elections.
“I am honoured by the confidence and trust that (Barrow) and members of the National Assembly have in me by respectively nominating and electing me,” she said.
“I shall also strive to discharge this function with the impartiality expected of the office of the Speaker and to maintain the dignity of the office.”
The UDP was one of seven parties that united to propel Barrow to power last December, but that coalition broke apart for the legislative elections.
Barrow only returned to The Gambia at the end of January, after fleeing to neighbouring Senegal as Jammeh clung on to power.
The UDP’s victory in results announced Friday — in which they won 31 of the 53 available seats in the National Assembly — is likely to make it easier for Barrow to get a raft of promised reforms passed.
Jammeh’s Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction meanwhile suffered a stunning reversal of fortune, going from 43 seats to just five.
Denton, a former UDP legal adviser, was detained for three months in March 2006 following an attempted coup plot by a group of soldiers and civilians. She was later granted bail by the High Court and the case against her was dropped.
Momodou Sanneh, a UDP executive member, was elected Deputy Speaker of parliament.
Sanneh was in 2016 arrested and charged after he and other UDP executive members took to the streets and demanded that the state hand over the corpse of Solo Sandeng, a rising star in the opposition party, who was tortured to death by state security agents.
In July last year, Sanneh was convicted and jailed for three years, but he was released from prison after Barrow’s election.
Other female parliamentary nominees backed by Barrow include Ndey Yassin Secka, a blind woman working as a broadcaster at The Gambia Radio and Television Services; and Kumba Jaiteh of the country’s competition and consumer protection commission.