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Crowds welcome new Gambian president Adama Barrow

Gambia's president Adama Barrow has returned home, solidifying his position as this country's first new leader in two decades after a political crisis which sent the previous ruler into exile.

Hundreds of people lined the road to the airport ahead of the arrival of Mr Barrow, who has promised to reverse many of the authoritarian policies of former leader Yahya Jammeh.

Mr Jammeh has been accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing his political opponents.

Mr Barrow defeated Mr Jammeh in December elections, but the veteran leader did not want to cede power.

The international community, alarmed by Mr Jammeh's unpredictability and claims - which included a bananas-and-herbal-rub "cure" for Aids - threw its support behind Mr Barrow, a 51-year-old businessman.

Mr Barrow was sworn into office on January 19 at the Gambian Embassy in neighbouring Senegal because of security threats as the stand-off continued.

Mr Jammeh finally left Gambia last weekend, bowing to international pressure that included a regional military force, ending a more than 22-year rule.

The West African troops were poised to oust Mr Jammeh if diplomatic talks failed. They have spent recent days securing the country for Mr Barrow's arrival.

A larger, more formal ceremony to welcome Barrow home will take place at a later date, spokesman Halifa Sallah said.

The new president is faced with immediate challenges, including a government that appears to be broke. Mr Jammeh left the state coffers empty, the new leader has said.

Gambia's biggest export is peanuts, though the country, the smallest on Africa's mainland, also has become a significant source of migrants making their way to Europe.

Mr Barrow's months ahead will be crucial to building a country that can put a climate of fear behind it and work toward reconciliation. He has vowed greater freedoms and reforms to the security forces and the constitution.

Mr Barrow has already has named a female vice president, Fatoumata Tambajang, who has called for Mr Jammeh's prosecution for alleged human rights abuses. But it emerged that she might be above the constitutional age limit for the post, and Mr Barrow said he will form a vetting committee for further appointments.

Mr Sallah, the spokesman, said a human rights commission will be set up and the new government will create a freedom of information act.


From Belfast Telegraph