Africa

The Gambia: President Barrow sworn in at packed stadium

Gambian President Adama Barrow greets thousands of supporters at Independence Stadium Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gambian President Adama Barrow greeted thousands of supporters at Independence Stadium

The Gambia has formally sworn in its new elected President, Adama Barrow, in front of a crowd of thousands including African heads of state.

It was the second time he had taken the oath after his formal inauguration was delayed by the reluctance of his predecessor to leave office.

"This is a victory for democracy," he told a full stadium of his countrymen near the capital Banjul.

"Few people would have thought that I'd be standing here today," he said.

He told the crowd that Gambian people now had the power to control their own destiny and that he was going to free political prisoners and improve press freedom.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The swearing-in ceremony was attended by leading army officers

"For 22 years, the Gambian people yearned to live in a country where our diverse tribes will be bridged by tolerance and our determination to work together for the common good," he said. "One Gambia, one nation, one people."

Mr Barrow, 51, talked of pressing economic challenges left over from the rule of his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh.

"We have inherited an economy in decline," the new president said, and promised to attract investment in the technology sector, introduce free primary education and strengthen the judiciary.

"Gambia has changed forever. The people are fully conscious that they can put a government in office as well as remove it."

The president's first swearing-in was at a low-key event at the country's embassy in Senegal last month, after the lengthy power struggle forced him into exile.

Crowds on Saturday had queued through the night to get a good spot inside the Independence Stadium.

Brass bands began playing ahead of the event and flags waved.

Mr Barrow is only the third president in the history of The Gambia, and the celebrations also mark 52 years of the west African country's independence.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Supporters of the new president gathered out the Independence Stadium ahead of the ceremony

Mr Jammeh was voted out in December but he only agreed to step aside when regional powers sent in troops ready to remove him by force.

He has since fled to Equatorial Guinea.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The crowds filed into the stadium ahead of the ceremony

The Gambia is now set to rejoin international institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the Commonwealth.

Mr Barrow, a successful property developer who has never held public office, defied the odds by winning the election.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Gambia's flag was hoisted above Independence Stadium for the ceremony

Speaking to the BBC just before the election, he said that Gambians "had been suffering for 22 years" and were ready for change.

His predecessor had once told the BBC he would rule for a billion years, if necessary.

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