Gambia’s president Adama Barrow returned home on Thursday, solidifying his position as the country’s first new commander in chief.
Gambians have waited eagerly for Barrow’s return. The new president has promised to reverse many of the authoritarian policies of former leader Yahya Jammeh, who was accused of being authoritarian and heavy handed.
Barrow defeated Jammeh in December elections, but the long serving Jammeh had refused to cede power.
The African Union and the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threw its support behind Barrow.
Barrow, a 51-year-old entrepreneur, was sworn into office on January 19 at the Gambian embassy in neighboring Senegal because of security threats as the standoff continued.
Jammeh finally left Gambia last weekend, bowing to international pressure that included a regional military force, ending a more than 22-year rule. The troops from the ECOWAS were poised to remove Jammeh by force if diplomatic talks failed. They have spent recent days securing the country for Barrow’s arrival.
About 2,500 of the ECOWAS troops remain in Gambia – in the capital, Banjul, as well as at key crossing points between Gambia and Senegal and at the port and airport. Barrow has asked the troops to stay for 6 months to provide security, said Mohamed Ibn Chambas, special representative of the UN secretary general and head of the UN office for West Africa and the Sahel.
The new president is faced with immediate challenges, including a government that appears to have no funds. Jammeh left the state coffers empty, the new leader has said.
Barrow’s months ahead will be crucial to building a country that can put a climate of fear behind it and work toward reconciliation. He has vowed greater freedoms and reforms to the security forces and the constitution.
Barrow has named a female vice president, Fatoumata Tambajang, who has called for Jammeh to be prosecuted for human rights abuses.
Source: Associated Press