The Gambia’s newly-elected President Adama Barrow has returned to the nation after his predecessor finally agreed to cede power under international pressure and went into exile.
On Thursday, Barrow arrived in Banjul from Senegal, where he had sought refuge in mid-January after his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, refused to concede defeat in the presidential election and stand down.
Barrow won in the national election late last year, but Jammah’s clinging to power threw The Gambia’s political scene into turmoil.
Upon arrival, the new head of state was welcomed by military officials and senior members of his coalition government.
Barrow’s supporters had gathered along the capital’s streets to welcome the president home.
“We also hope that if he (Barrow) comes as a president, there will be some changes,” said a supporter.
Barrow was inaugurated as president in neighboring Senegal on January 19.
Over two decades of Jammeh’s rule came to an end last week after he fled to Equatorial Guinea as thousands of soldiers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were deployed to the country to force him out of office.
A United Nations official announced earlier in the day that Barrow had asked the 7,000-strong ECOWAS military contingent to remain in the country for six months.
Barrow requested the forces sent by ECOWAS to remain in Gambia for six months, said Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations’ most senior official in West Africa.
In the meantime, the ECOWAS contingent in Gambia is carrying out a sweep operation to neutralize possible security threats against the new head of state.
Along with the military mission, ECOWAS had sent a diplomatic team of regional leaders to persuade Jammeh to relinquish power before the military force was used against him.
The diplomats managed to persuade Jammeh to leave the country before clashes began.
On January 21, some two days after the expiration of his mandate, Jammeh finally announced his decision “to relinquish the mantle of leadership,” paving the way for a peaceful transition of power.
Referring to terms agreed upon during negotiations between the ECOWAS envoy and Jammeh, Chambas said there were concerns about the promises and concessions given to Jammeh before he agreed to depart the country for Equatorial Guinea.
“The three organizations and the two presidents who were there made it very clear they did not have any such power and both as a president and now as a former president, Mr. Jammeh (…) is subject to the rights that are given under the constitution of the Gambia,” Chambas said.
Equatorial Guinea confirmed on Tuesday that Jammeh had arrived in the country.
Many Gambians believe Jammeh, who had been in power since a coup in 1994, should face trial for alleged human rights abuses.
By Africafrique and agencies