The last time a Gambian president was in New York for a meeting at the UN, his hotel was jampacked with protesters chanting “free Gambia!”
Security was tight, extra secret service personnel deployed and New York police tried to barricade angry protesters demanding then President Yahya Jammeh to leave power and end human rights abuses.
But Gambia now has a new leader – Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in last year’s election. He arrived in New York on Sunday for his UN debut.
No one had thought that this year would be an exception to the preparations that take place for protest against Jammeh’s regime. Instead of a protest, it was all cheers and hugs.
In New York, Jammeh is often surrounded by a battalion of his trusted military commanders, who do not hesitate to attack journalists and protesters. Not even his supporters get close to him.
Unlike Jammeh, Mr. Barrow walked freely on the sidewalk of the Big Apple surrounded by his citizens. He was shaking hands, hugging and chitchatting with a broad smile.
Barrow’s rise to power was as surprising as the shocking defeat he handed Jammeh. He is humble and soft-spoken and has won the hearts of many Gambians.
Although President Barrow’s administration faces some challenges, Gambians have regained their freedom and the country is rising to retake its position as Africa’s champion for democracy and human rights.