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Gambia's new president names woman deputy

Gambia's new president Adama Barrow has made a woman leader of the opposition coalition that helped bring him to power his deputy as troops mount security sweeps to prepare for his return to the country.

The appointment of Fatoumata Tambajang as vice president was announced by coalition spokesman Halifa Sallah, who said the rest of Mr Barrow's cabinet would be revealed on Tuesday.

Ms Tambajang, a former United Nations Development Programme staffer, was instrumental in helping Gambia's opposition parties overcome their differences and unite against ousted strongman president Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a coup and ruled for 22 years.

Mr Barrow remained in Senegal on Monday, where he travelled more than a week ago when it was uncertain whether Mr Jammeh would acknowledge defeat in the December election and step down.

After days of frantic mediation, and as a regional intervention force deployed to apply pressure, Mr Jammeh finally agreed to leave, flying out on Saturday night.

Mediators said his destination was Equatorial Guinea, though the notoriously secretive country has yet to confirm his arrival.

Mr Barrow's return date has not been fixed and this week's appointments are aimed at filling a void created by his absence.

The armed forces have pledged loyalty to him, though regional forces from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) continued to push Gambian soldiers out of the official residence, State House, on Monday, in advance of Mr Barrow's arrival.

They also took over a Republican Guard barracks training centre in Bakau, just outside Banjul.

The presence of Ecowas troops was cheered by many in the capital, and some emboldened Gambians even tried to cross the gates of State House - a place they did not dare attempt to enter before.

Abass Hydra said it was his first time back near State House since his father was arrested inexplicably during prayers and held for three months.

"It was very difficult for us at that time, and it was traumatising, and now finally we are free because Jammeh is gone," he said.

"I hope for peace and unity. We need Ecowas here so that they can help stabilise things."

Meanwhile, Equatorial Guinea's opposition condemned the government's decision to welcome Mr Jammeh.

President Teodoro Obiang will be held responsible "for what might occur" as a result of Mr Jammeh's presence on the country's soil, a statement by Andres Esono Ondo, secretary general of the opposition Convergence for Social Democracy, said.

Mr Jammeh should not qualify for political asylum because he triggered Gambia's crisis by refusing to step down, the Democratic Opposition Front said in a separate statement.

"We are not against Pan-Africanism, but we are in favour of a more objective Pan-Africanism that does not consist in just bringing over the waste of Africa," the group said.

On Monday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said preventive diplomacy in Gambia avoided bloodshed, restored democracy and averted a "humanitarian disaster".

Mr Dujarric said the unity of Ecowas, with UN backing, was critical to Mr Jammeh's handover of power and if diplomacy had not worked "we would have seen a far worse situation".

AP

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