Africa’s newest leader, Adama Barrow has committed to joining regional leaders in fighting terrorism, which has posed a threat to his majority Muslim nation of fewer than two million people, two months after two suspected terrorist heading to the Gambia were intercepted.
President Barrow assumed power after regional forces led by troops from neighboring Senegal and support by Africa’s super power, Nigeria.
Senegalese authorities in February arrested two men linked to deadly terrorist attacks in Mali and Ivory Coast, who were heading to the Gambia just days after Barrow’s inauguration. The men were wanted in connection to an attack on a hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako and in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast.
Gambia is a popular tourist destination for British holidaymakers and Scandinavians escaping the cold winter. British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson announced the UK and Gambia will partner in ensuring security and repel the the threat of terrorism.
UK’s Foreign Office had flag the Gambia as being at risk of terrorist attack during the political standoff sparked by former President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to cede power.
Jammeh, the decades-long autocratic ruler had declared Gambia and Islamic Republic, a declaration partly responsible for his surprise defeat in last year’s polls.
Although the erstwhile ruler had participated in at least two CIA renditions, building strong relations with the Bush administration and former Ambassador Jackson MacDonald, it did not stop Jammeh from inviting controverisial preacher, Zakir Naik, who is wanted in his native India for inspiring terrorist activities and sectarian violence.
Naik’s visit to the West African nation led to debates over the secularity of the state and nearly sparked confrontation between Christians and Muslims.
The Christians, who felt marginalized, especially after an attempt to close their cemetery in the entrance of the capital, and after drumming was banned by authorities during the Ramadan leading to worship services in churches being interrupted by the police show their anger by voting for Barrow.
Barrow attended a regional security meeting with French President Francois Hollande before his swearing-in in Bamako. He was also in Paris where he agreed to military cooperation with France.
French troops will start training Gambia’s military, including its handful of Special Forces, State House officials say.
Terrorists have attacked most of Gambia’s neighbors, especially in Nigeria, where Boko Haram has killed at least 20,000 people since it mounted an insurgency some seven years ago. Nigerians can travel to the Gambia without a visa or security clearance and can live and work in the country without a permanent residency.