Thousands watched as President Adama Barrow’s public swearing in ceremony was held in the city of Bakau. The occasion ends a months-long political crisis after the country’s longtime leader refused to step down.
An estimated 25,000 people packed into the city’s Independence Stadium on Saturday along with several regional heads of state for Barrow’s pledge of oath.
President Adama Barrow made the announcement during a visit from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The move is intended to repair damage done to the country’s foriegn relations under former leader Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow arrived to fanfare and huge applause, waving from his vehicle in flowing white robes. Songs and shouts of slogans filled the stadium and many supporters wore pro-Barrow T-shirts. Later, he was due to address the nation on TV.
The presidents of Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Mauritania were also in attendance, at what was the new Gambian leader’s second swearing-in ceremony due to a months-long political struggle.
The first took place in Senegal last month for security reasons after Barrow fled to the neighboring country despite being declared the winner in Gambia’s December 1 election.
Jammeh hung on for months
His predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled the tiny West African state for 23 years from 1994, refused to step down following the vote. After weeks of international pressure, Jammeh eventually conceded defeat and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea, allowing Barrow to return on January 26.
Along with the new leader, Gambia’s electoral commission chairman, Alieu Momarr Njai, who stood by the election results, was also greeted by cheers from the crowd.
Saturday’s inauguration took place on the 52nd anniversary of Gambia’s independence from Britain.
The 52-year-old leader has pledged a new era of governance for Gambia, after Jammeh ruled with an iron fist for more than two decades.
He has committed to stay in the International Criminal Court and rejoin the Commonwealth. He also has vowed to free political prisoners.
The international community has quickly warmed to the new Barrow era, with the European Union recently announcing an $80 million package of support after breaking off assistance amid tensions with Jammeh.