Gambia’s President Adama Barrow, who was inaugurated in neighbouring Senegal as mediators engineered an exit deal for longstanding ruler Yahya Jammeh, is to return to Gambia on Thursday, a senior aide said.
Barrow has asked a regional force of several thousand soldiers to stay and help him restore democratic governance after they entered Gambia last week to enforce election results that brought an end to Jammeh’s 22 years in power.
Jammeh’s government gained a reputation for the torture and killing of perceived opponents and many Gambians are furious that he will not face trial at home for those abuses.
“He (Barrow) is leaving tomorrow and will arrive in Banjul at around 4 p.m. (1600 GMT),” aide Amie Bojang told Reuters.
Jammeh pitched Gambia into turmoil in December when he refused to accept his loss in an election to Barrow and demanded another vote.
The former soldier finally stepped down on Saturday and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea under diplomatic pressure and after West African Ecowas troops crossed into Gambia.
Those forces are still there, and Barrow spokesman Halifa Sallah told Reuters on Wednesday that he had requested they stay for six months. He said this was still under discussion.
Gambians cheered them on when they arrived but Barrow’s government is aware of the possibility of tensions if they stay much longer.
“The Ecowas forces are to collaborate with forces in The Gambia to ensure the safety of the president, the government and the Gambian people,” he said.
“The plan is to integrate (them) … so they can see the issue is not another country invading or occupying Gambia.”
Many Gambians assume that Jammeh has fled into a luxurious exile rather than face trial for alleged human rights abuses.
(Additional reporting by Lamine Jahateh; Writing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Tim Cocks; Editing by Louise Ireland)