Barrow returns as president amid high expectations
GAMBIAN President Adama Barrow returned on Thursday from neighbouring Senegal to take office after his predecessor went into exile under a threat by West African leaders to remove him by force.
Barrow touched down at 5pm at the airport in the capital Banjul as thousands gathered for his arrival a week after his inauguration at the Gambian embassy in Senegal.
This is “a proud day day for Gambians and a day of freedom from the rule of modern slavery,” said Musa Sanneh, who awaited Barrow’s return at the airport amid dancing and the beating of drums. “The country has to be well developed now. If people are developed then the country will be different.”
West African soldiers deployed across Banjul to prepare for Barrow’s arrival a day after Yahya Jammeh agreed to go into exile in Equatorial Guinea, ending a standoff that began with a December 1 presidential election.
Jammeh, who had ruled since a 1994 coup, initially acknowledged he lost the vote to Barrow before changing his mind and trying to reverse the outcome a week later.
Barrow, 51, was relatively unknown in Gambian politics before the election, assuming leadership of the opposition only after a coalition of anti-Jammeh parties sought to replace Ousainou Darbou, who was jailed in July because he’d organised a rare protest march.
The Economic Community of West African States decided to take military action after Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency.
The organisation mobilised the Nigerian Air Force to get ready to intervene, while Senegalese soldiers rolled into the Gambia.
Jammeh finally stepped down early on January 21, following last-ditch mediation efforts by Guinean President Alpha Conde and Mauritanian leader Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Barrow, who previously dealt in real estate, is facing high popular expectations and the challenge of keeping a coalition together that hasn’t always shown a united front, according to Adeline Van Houtte, Africa analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“Assuming that he’s able to implement his campaign promises, he will form a transitional government made up of members of the seven parties that supported his candidacy,” Van Houtte said.
“There’s a risk that infighting will undermine the effectiveness of the coalition’s policymaking,” she added.
Jammeh had isolated the smallest nation on mainland Africa by pledging to kill homosexuals, implementing the death penalty and withdrawing from the Commonwealth and the International Criminal Court.
The Gambia has a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, while the rest of its territory is surrounded by Senegal.
Barrow’s unexpected victory and the regional support for the handover of power may galvanise opposition forces elsewhere in Africa, said Van Houtte.
“If the new government manages to live up to popular expectations, this transition has the potential to be considered as an example to follow in other countries,” she said. – Washington Post
Senegalese soldiers rolled into Gambia.
BACK HOME: Gambian President Adama Barrow at his residence in Yunduma. He returned from a short exile in Senegal on Thursday.