Gambians have celebrated the arrival of their new President Adama Barrow after a post-election crisis forced him to flee. After two decades of rule under Jammeh, Barrow’s return signifies a new chapter for the country.
After weeks of a political impasse, The Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow returned home on Thursday.
Barrow landed at the airport in the capital Banjul shortly after 1700 UTC. Dressed in flowing white robes called the “Haftan,” Barrow shook hands with elders and senior members of his coalition government on the tarmac.
“I am a happy man today,” Barrow told the Associated Press after he arrived. “I think the bad part is finished now.” He promised to get his Cabinet in place and “then get the ball rolling.”
He was accompanied by two of his wives and some of his children as well as dozens of Gambian soldiers and troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Barrow’s return marks the first democratic transfer of power in The Gambia’s history.
Hundreds gathered to greet the new president in the capital after he was forced to flee to neighboring Senegal on January 15 after his predecessor Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.
Jammeh, who ruled the country for 22 years, lost the December 1 election but failed to the recognize Barrow’s win. After weeks of regional pressure and the threat of arrest by West African troops, Jammeh conceded defeat.
The former strongman went into exile in Equatorial Guinea on Saturday, with authorities accusing him of plundering state coffers and absconding with $11 million (10 million euros).
Barrow already has named a female vice president, Fatoumata Tambajang, who has called for Jammeh’s prosecution for alleged human rights abuses. One of his first jobs, however, is to deal with an internal crisis over the appointment after it was revealed that she may be constitutionally too old for the position.
The Gambia, a country with nearly 1.9 million people, has set an example for other West African nations as the region pushes for stable, democratic transitions of power.
rs/bw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)