Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow has arrived in his country, weeks after fleeing over the refusal of Yahya Jammeh to cede power.
Barrow had been in neighbouring Senegal where he took his oath of office in the Gambian embassy in Dakar, capital of Senegal.
Hundreds of people gathered along the streets of Gambia’s capital Banjul on Thursday to welcome the new president.
Barrow, a former real estate agent, won the December election.
Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea on Saturday night as thousands of soldiers from ECOWAS regional bloc were poised to remove him by force after 22 years of increasingly repressive rule.
Along wide avenues leading to the airport, Gambians wearing T-shirts with Barrow’s picture blew whistles, banged calabash drums and sang in Fula language, ‘“We welcome you our president, our hope, our solution’, as Senegalese soldiers looked on.
Earlier, Ebrima Bah, who had been awaiting Barrow at the airport, said: “His arrival is raising my confidence in the new government.”
Jammeh’s political demise is a relief to many people in the small, sliver-like West African country who long were afraid to openly criticise the government for fear of his secret police.
Swiss police detained longtime former Gambian interior minister Ousman Sonko near the Swiss capital of Berne on Thursday after a complaint filed against him by non-governmental organization Trial International.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, who was due to accompany Barrow back to Banjul, pledged to provide assistance to help Gambia’s new government investigate human rights abuses under Jammeh.
Barrow has asked the 7,000-strong West African military contingent to remain in Gambia for another six months, Chambas said.
An ECOWAS official said they were studying the proposal.
Gambia, a tiny riverine nation surrounded by Western ally Senegal on three sides, has a bloated army for its size but so far there have been no signs of resistance to ECOWAS forces.
However, lingering questions remain as to the loyalty of the Republican Guard, thought to number about 400, who in the past protected Jammeh from coup attempts.
The whereabouts of members of alleged assassination squads known in Gambia as the “Junglers” were not known.