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Gambians Await Arrival of New President Thursday

  • Katarina Höije

Gambian President Adama Barrow speaks with VOA's Sainey Marenah in Senegal, Jan. 22, 2017.

Gambians are ready for their new president to return home. President Adama Barrow has remained in Dakar, Senegal this week for security reasons but he is expected to return Thursday, one week after his inauguration.

A spokesperson for the president told VOA Adama Barrow will arrive in Banjul on Thursday.

Kebba Jammeh is a party secretary for the coalition that supported Barrow in the December election.

“The Senegalese government is advising Barrow not to come. It’s not safe," said Jammeh. "It’s safe for him to stay in Dakar right now.”

West African troops in Banjul, Gambia's capital, have been busy securing the State House and other key areas. Weapons sweeps continued Wednesday.

Former president Yahya Jammeh boarded a plane to Guinea Saturday after a tense standoff with regional leaders that saw Senegalese troops deploy to the border, threatening to remove Jammeh by force. Gambia’s leader of 22 years was refusing to go, even though he had lost the election.

On Tuesday, Gambia’s national assembly voted to lift the state of emergency Jammeh had declared last week in a final attempt to cling to power.

Barrow will return home to high expectations.

President Barrow says he will set up a truth and reconciliation commission to look into alleged abuses under Jammeh. But he inherits some other hefty challenges. Gambia is one of the world’s poorest nations. Thousands of young Gambians take the dangerous route across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean each year, trying to migrate to Europe.

Many here, like Kasseh Samura, want Barrow to focus on job creation.

“I was a supporter of the former president, but I believe what people decide," said Samura. "That’s what we’re all yearning for. We want progress. Peace for our people, development for our people. So we are praying for Barrow, for him to succeed in his tenure of office.”

A spokesman for Barrow has accused Yahya Jammeh of looting the country’s coffers before going into exile. Financial experts are still examining those claims.

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