Gambia's new president to arrive in the country on Thursday

AP News
Posted: Jan 25, 2017 11:58 AM
Gambia's new president to arrive in the country on Thursday

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambia's new president finally comes home on Thursday, a week after taking the oath of office outside the country during a whirlwind political crisis that sent the tiny nation's longtime leader into exile.

President Adama Barrow is set to arrive Thursday afternoon from neighboring Senegal, where he has waited out the chaos for his safety, a spokesman for the coalition backing him confirmed Wednesday.

Gambians eagerly await Barrow, who has promised to reverse many of the actions taken by former leader Yahya Jammeh. Barrow defeated Jammeh in December elections that the ruling party challenged.

Jammeh finally left the country over the weekend after international pressure, ending a more than 22-year rule. He has been accused by rights groups and others of leading a government that suppressed opponents with detentions, beatings and killings.

A West African regional military force that was poised to oust Jammeh if diplomatic talks failed has been securing Gambia for Barrow's arrival. He has been waiting for the force to confirm that it was safe for him to return, spokesman Halifa Sallah said.

A new inauguration will be held on Gambian soil, said Sallah, speaking on Senegalese radio. "We will organize a ceremony soon at the stadium. It will be an occasion to show strength. Everyone will be invited. The president will address his people."

Barrow has requested that the regional force remain in Gambia for six months, but it is unclear whether heads of state with the regional bloc, known as ECOWAS, will approve a deployment for that long.

The new president has been busy this week forming his Cabinet and has named a woman, Fatoumata Tabajang, as vice president. She has vowed to seek prosecution for Jammeh, who flew with family and close aides to Equatorial Guinea.

On Tuesday, Gambia's lawmakers lifted the country's state of emergency and revoked a three-month extension of Jammeh's term, as the new government began dismantling his final attempts to cling to power.

Victims of human rights abuses under the previous government "will have the benefit of appearing before a human rights commission," Sallah told reporters Wednesday.

"There will, in fact, be a freedom of information act," he added. "The desire is to expand the right to freedom of expression and freedom of media."