New Gambian president set to return Thursday

Gambian president-elect Adama Barrow

Gambian president Adama Barrow

President Adama Barrow is set to return to The Gambia on Thursday after his predecessor Yahya Jammeh finally quit power under threat of military intervention.

Barrow’s aide Mai Fatty confirmed to AFP on Wednesday that the new president was preparing to head home from Senegal, where he has been since January 15 fearing for his safety.

“Yes, tomorrow afternoon,” Fatty told AFP in Dakar.

A source close to the Senegalese presidency and a diplomatic source in The Gambia’s capital Banjul had also confirmed the announcement made on a Facebook page linked to the new president that Barrow was due to arrive on Thursday at 4:00 pm (1600 GMT).

“Any changes to the above schedule will be communicated,” the Facebook statement said.

Barrow won December’s election, but for weeks Jammeh refused to step down, setting off a crisis that saw the new president take his oath of office in neighbouring Senegal last week.

Jammeh, who had been in power for more than two decades after taking power in a coup, went into exile in Equatorial Guinea at the weekend, under threat of a regional military intervention.

Barrow had put off his return to The Gambia until his safety could be guaranteed by thousands of soldiers from five African nations currently deployed in the tiny nation, but unease had been growing over his prolonged absence.

Marcel Alain De Souza, head of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), told a briefing in Nigeria on Tuesday that the troops were working to secure Banjul and the surrounding area for Barrow’s return.

“Today or tomorrow, we will be able to indicate that President Adama Barrow, if he’s comfortable, can fly on,” De Souza had said.

Barrow has assured Jammeh he will have all the rights legally ensured to an ex-president, which under Gambian law includes immunity from prosecution, barring a vote by two-thirds of the national assembly.

The new government has also confirmed that Jammeh will be permitted to keep a fleet of luxury cars, while Fatty said Sunday that the former strongman leader had plundered state coffers before heading into exile, making off with $11 million.

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