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New Gambian president promises reforms, freedoms

Gambia’s new president promised greater freedom, an improved economy and better education as thousands attended a ceremony Saturday marking his inauguration after a tense political standoff with the country’s former longtime leader.
“This is a victory for democracy. It is a victory for all Gambians,” President Adama Barrow said to a packed stadium near the capital that included dignitaries and several African heads of state.

The day, he said, was symbolic because it also marked the day in 1965 when the small West African nation declared its independence from Britain and the year in which the 52-year-old Barrow was born.

Saturday’s ceremony was held to let Gambians witness a swearing-in that echoed the official one last month.
Barrow first took the oath of office at Gambia’s embassy in neighboring Senegal in January as former leader Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power.

International pressure, including the threat of a regional military intervention, led Jammeh on Jan. 21 to finally accept his December election loss and fly into exile in Equatorial Guinea. Hundreds of thousands welcomed Barrow’s return to Gambia days later.

Barrow has pledged to reverse many of the actions that Jammeh took during his more than two decades of power. Barrow has promised to stay in the International Criminal Court, rejoin the Commonwealth, and free political prisoners.

Barrow arrived at Independence Stadium on Saturday to fanfare, waving from his vehicle in flowing white robes. Gambians also cheered Independent Electoral Commission chairman Alieu Momarr Njai, who had to flee to Senegal during the political crisis after standing by the election results that showed Barrow’s win.

After hours of ceremony, including a marching band, Barrow addressed the nation. He thanked Senegal for hosting him and promised improved relations, adding “we want the relationship between the two countries to be a model for African integration.”

He thanked Allah, the Gambian people, the African Union, United Nations and regional leaders from the West African bloc ECOWAS for undertaking mediation efforts, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was in attendance.

Others attending included the heads of state of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana, and the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Source: Daily Sun, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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