Halifa Sallah

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Halifa Sallah
Special Advisor to the President on Governance
Assumed office
17 February 2017
President Adama Barrow
Preceded by Position established
National Assembly Minority Leader
In office
17 January 2002 – 25 January 2007
Preceded by Kemesseng Jammeh
Succeeded by Momodou L. K. Sanneh
National Assembly Member
Assumed office
6 April 2017
Constituency Serekunda
In office
17 January 2002 – 25 January 2007
Succeeded by Fabakary Jatta
Constituency Serekunda Central
Secretary-General of the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism
Assumed office
August 1987
Preceded by New position
Personal details
Born 1953 (age 63–64)
Serekunda, the Gambia
Political party PDOIS
Other political
Coalition 2016

Halifa Sallah (born 1953) is a Gambian politician who is currently a Special Advisor to the President on Governance and the spokesperson for President Adama Barrow's administration. He is also the secretary-general of the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism.

Sallah was a member of the National Assembly representing Serekunda Central from 2002 to 2007, and also concurrently served as Minority Leader. He has also been a member of the Pan-African Parliament and was the National Alliance for Democracy and Development's candidate for President in the 2006 election, coming third with 6% of the vote.

Early life[edit]

Sallah was born and raised in Serekunda, the Gambia, and was educated in the United States, graduating with a degree in sociology.[1][2] He returned to the Gambia in 1977 and worked as a social worker in the Social Welfare Department.[3]

Political career[edit]

Jawara era and post-coup[edit]

After returning from the United States in the late 1970s, Sallah became involved with the People's Movement for Independence against Neo-Colonialism and Capitalism (PMINCC). It is also believed that he was one of the editors of The Voice of the Future newspaper. Along with other PMINCC members, he was arrested in October 1983 and went on trial in 1984 for his involvement in distributing The Voice. He was acquitted but lost his job as a result of the trial.[3]

In 1986, Sallah was one of the founders of the People's Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS). He was elected as its secretary-general in August 1987. He also became a major contributor to its newspaper, Foroyaa, which he co-edited with Sidia Jatta.[4] Sallah contested the Serekunda East constituency in the 1987 and 1992 elections for the House of Representatives, but only won around 10% of the vote. Following Yahya Jammeh's coup in 1994, Sallah and other PDOIS leaders adopted a principled stance in response, with Sallah and Jatta both turning down offers to join the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council. Both men were detained in August 1994 for publishing an edition of Foroyaa despite the ban on political activities. They were put on trial, found guilty, and fined, but resumed publication in November 1994 as a non-partisan newspaper.[3]

Parliamentary career, arrest and presidential campaign[edit]

Sallah again unsuccessfully contested the Serekunda East constituency in the 1997 election but was elected to the new constituency of Serekunda Central in the 2002 parliamentary election. As the United Democratic Party (UDP) had boycotted the election, the PDOIS, with two seats, emerged as the largest opposition party, and Sallah became the Minority Leader in the National Assembly. He also served as a member of the Pan-African Parliament in this period. In June 2005, he was expelled from the National Assembly along with three other opposition MPs on the grounds of dual party membership. NADD, an opposition alliance that the PDOIS had joined earlier that year, had been registered as a political party, and the Supreme Court of the Gambia ruled that holding dual membership was against the Gambian Constitution. Some criticised the ruling, claiming that it was a move to silence parliamentary opposition as there was nothing in the Constitution that regulated political parties. On 29 September, a by-election was held in Serrekunda Central, in which Sallah was re-elected by a "huge" margin.[5]

On 15 November 2005, he was arrested along with two other opposition leaders on the grounds of subversion, accused of having collaborated with the President of Senegal. The charges, however, were dropped following the intervention of Olusegun Obasanjo, then-President of Nigeria. Sallah was NADD's candidate in the 2006 presidential election, where he came third and won 5.98% of the vote. During the election, the US Embassy described Sallah as "known and respected throughout the country and abroad for his constant admonishment of President Jammeh's government for its failure to adhere to the country's constitution and the principles of democracy." They also wrote: "A win by Halifa Sallah would almost certainly usher in a new era in Gambian government and politics. Sallah's ideas are consistent with democratic principles and we would expect a Sallah administration to be a reliable friend of the US."[1][5]

Further arrests, 2016 campaign and Barrow presidency[edit]

He lost his seat in the National Assembly in the 2007 parliamentary election to Sainey Jaiteh, a member of the ruling APRC. While not mentioning Sallah by name, Yahya Jammeh made a coded reference to him and Hamat Bah when he expressed his satisfaction at the defeat of "the two empty barrels in the National Assembly". Sallah blamed the opposition's poor performance in the election on a split in its ranks and said that he intended to retire from politics and concentrate on writing.[5][6] On 8 March 2009, Sallah was arrested and taken to the central prison, Mile II. The Jammeh regime accused him of spying.[7] However, the charges were dropped against him on 25 March "in the interest of peace and justice".[8] Sallah was also reportedly detained in June 2009, when he went to visit a group of imprisoned journalists at the National Intelligence Agency.[4] He was held overnight before being released on bail.[9] Before the 2011 Gambian presidential election, Sallah released a statement saying he would not be a candidate because "the office of President or Vice President is not of value to [him]".[10]

In February 2016, it was announced that Sallah would be PDOIS's candidate in the 2016 Gambian presidential election.[2] He later became the spokesperson for Coalition 2016, and following Jammeh's defeat by Adama Barrow in the election, declared that Jammeh would be treated like a "rebel leader" if he did not relinquish control by 19 January 2017, when his term ended.[11] Sallah remained the coalition spokesperson following Barrow's election. Sallah was reportedly being considered for Vice-President by Barrow, but Barrow changed his mind following a meeting with Ousainou Darboe and other UDP members. Sallah subsequently declined the offer of a cabinet position.[12] On 17 February 2017, Sallah was appointed as Special Advisor to the President on Governance. SMBC News commented that his "appointment will bring absolute, total, complete confidence of the Barrow administration."[13] On 24 February, Sallah announced that he would be contesting his former seat of Serekunda East at the 2017 parliamentary election, so would be standing against incumbent Majority Leader Fabakary Jatta of the APRC.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Sallah was involved in a car accident while touring the country in March 2016 and "suffered cuts to his face", but his injuries were not life-threatening.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Gambian Presidential Election - Candidate Profiles". WikiLeaks. 5 September 2006. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Gambia's Halifa Sallah To Lead PDOIS In Dec. Poll". Jollof News. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Perfect, David (2016). Historical Dictionary of the Gambia. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 374–375. 
  4. ^ a b "Gambia opposition leader detained". Panapress. Archived from the original on June 21, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c "Biography of Halifa SALLAH". African Success. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "Gambian President laughs at opponents". afrol News. January 29, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2008. 
  7. ^ "Gambia: Leave Halifa Sallah Alone". allafrica.com. March 24, 2009. Retrieved April 7, 2009. 
  8. ^ Fabakary B. Ceesay (March 20, 2009). "Foroyaa: "Charges Against Halifa Sallah Dropped". Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved April 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Opposition leader, journalist released on bail". Panapress. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved June 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Office of President not of value to Halifa Sallah". The Point. 31 October 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  11. ^ "Halifa Sallah Warns That Jammeh Will Be Treated Like A Rebel Leader If He Fails To Handover". Freedom Newspaper. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  12. ^ "Halifa Sallah declines cabinet position in Barrow administration". What's on Gambia. 8 February 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  13. ^ "Halifa Sallah is President Barrow's Special Advisor on Governance". SMBC News. 17 February 2017. Retrieved 18 February 2017. 
  14. ^ "Halifa Sallah to seek Serrekunda East parliamentary seat". SMBC News. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017. 
  15. ^ "Halifa Sallah Involved In A Car Accident; His Conditions Not Life Threatening". Freedom Newspaper. Retrieved 21 January 2017.