Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Gambia's new president returns to nation as new era begins

Published:Friday | January 27, 2017 | 1:00 AM
Gambian President Adama Barrow waves as he rides his motorcade through crowds of hundreds of thousands after arriving at Banjul International airport in Gambia yesterday.

BANJUL (AP):

Gambia's President Adama Barrow finally returned home yesterday, solidifying his position as this country's first new commander-in-chief in two decades after a political crisis that sent the previous ruler into exile.

Hundreds of people lined the road to the airport ahead of his arrival, while boys on top of packed minibuses played drums on empty gas canisters and women danced in joy. Hundreds more gathered at the airport, where Barrow emerged from the plane in a flowing white robe to shouts of "Welcome! Welcome!"

"I am a happy man today," Barrow told The Associated Press amid the crush of his arrival. "I think the bad part is finished now." He promised to get his Cabinet in place and "then get the ball rolling".

Gambians had eagerly awaited Barrow, who has promised to reverse many of the authoritarian policies of former leader Yahya Jammeh, who was accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing his political opponents.

"Every Gambian must be free. We suffered for 22 years, but now enough is enough," said Seedia Badjie, 37.

Barrow defeated Jammeh in the December elections, but the veteran leader did not want to cede power. The international community, alarmed by Jammeh's unpredictability and claims that included a bananas-and-herbal-rub "cure" for AIDS, threw its support behind Barrow, a 51-year-old businessman.

Barrow was sworn into office on January 19 at the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring 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 West African troops were poised to oust Jammeh if diplomatic talks failed. They have spent recent days securing the country for Barrow's arrival.