Bar­row re­turns as pres­i­dent amid high ex­pec­ta­tions

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

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.

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