The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow returned home on Thursday, Jan. 26, almost two months after winning an election disputed by the tiny West African country’s longtime dictator.
Hundreds of thousands of Gambians flooded the streets to celebrate after power was peacefully transferred in a contest that nearly tipped the country into civil war. President Barrow had been waiting in Senegal where earlier this month he was inaugurated.
“I am a happy man today,” the new president said. “I think the bad part is finished now.”
He promised to get his Cabinet in place and “then get the ball rolling,” adding that a commission would be set up to address reconciliation.
The 51-year-old businessman, who once worked as a security guard at an Argos shop in north London, has promised to reverse many of the authoritarian policies of his predecessor. The former leader, Yahya Jammeh, oversaw a government accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing his political opponents during a 22-year reign. Some political prisoners have been released, but the fate of many who have disappeared remains unknown.
Jammeh finally left The Gambia last weekend, bowing to international pressure and the threat of West African troops poised to oust him. Since then, the troops have been securing the country for President Barrow’s arrival.
Jammeh ended up in Equatorial Guinea, taking luxury cars and other riches amassed during his presidency, and accompanied by family and trusted security guards. When he left, The Gambia’s capital Banjul exploded in celebration, with music blaring from speakers and people dancing in the streets.
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