Sun | Oct 21, 2018

A year after Jammeh's exit, a nation emerges from the shadows

Published:Saturday | January 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this Thursday January 26, 2017 file photo, Gambian President Adama Barrow greets the crowds after arriving at Banjul airport in Gambia.


The military intervention looked imminent. West African troops were poised to push into Gambia as Yahya Jammeh, the tiny nation's leader for more than 22 years, refused to cede power after losing elections. President-elect Adama Barrow had flown to safety in neighbouring Senegal, where he was sworn in at the Gambian embassy with international support.

Days later, Jammeh kissed his Quran, waved goodbye to teary-eyed supporters, and boarded a plane with his family and dozens of allies, eventually landing in Equatorial Guinea and disappearing into silence.

In the year since the world marvelled at a dictator's fall, Gambia has risen from the shadows of Jammeh's 'rule of fear' with its arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings.

"Journalists can now freely conduct their work and human rights defenders can carry out their mandate without fearing persecution. The average Gambian is enjoying a lot of fundamental rights and freedoms he couldn't expect under the previous government," Justice Minister Aboubacarr Tambadou told The Associated Press, calling it a "seismic shift".

But he warned: "Let us remember that democracy is a continuum ... it will take time to rebuild a country."

Jammeh left the nation of 1.9 million people in shambles. Its stunted economy has forced many to flee towards Europe over the years. Jammeh's face remains on the country's banknotes.