The Gambia's President Adama Barrow returns home almost two months after winning disputed election

The incoming leader arrives after waiting in neighbouring Senegal

Tom Batchelor@_tombatchelor
Friday 27 January 2017 01:40
People cheer as President Adama Barrow arrives nearly two months after winning an election disputed by the country's longtime dictator
People cheer as President Adama Barrow arrives nearly two months after winning an election disputed by the country's longtime dictator

The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow returned home on Thursday, almost two months after winning an election disputed by the tiny West African country's long-time 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."

British tourists describe airport 'chaos' in fleeing crisis-torn Gambia

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 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.

Yahya Jammeh finally left The Gambia last weekend, bowing to international pressure and the threat of West African troops poised to oust him.

Since then, they have been securing the country for President Barrow's arrival.

Mr Jammeh ended up in Equatorial Guinea, taking luxury cars and other riches amassed during his presidency, and accompanied by family and trusted security guards.

Former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh boards a private jet before departing Banjul airport, Gambia

When he left, The Gambia’s capital Banjul exploded in celebration, with music blaring from speakers and people dancing in the streets.

The President’s biggest challenge will be restoring the Government’s depleted cash reserves.

The Gambia's biggest export is peanuts, although the country, the smallest on Africa's mainland, also has become a significant source of migrants making their way to Europe.

Tourism is a vital industry, but the increasingly isolationist regime had frightened many visitors away.

"We expect a lot of things from Barrow," said 26-year-old Modou Fall.

"We want the forces to stay so that we can reform our army ... and we need development in this country."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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