President Adama Barrow was full of gratitude to those that stood with his country to uphold the will of The Gambian people after longtime ex-ruler, Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power.
West African regional bloc, ECOWAS took an unprecedented stand deploying a multinational military force to intervene, bring Mr. Barrow to Barrow and return normalcy to the small nation.
Barrow used his first UN address to extol the nations, who were willing to sacrifice their sons and daughters to see democracy growing across West Africa and helping end decades of repression in his country.
“The recent political crisis that took place in my country created a new democratic beginning and the experience taught us useful lessons that Gambians will not easily forget. We learned that will power and national unity, decisive regional intervention, as well as the undivided and clear support of the international community, could produce positive outcomes,” Mr. Barrow said.
“Also of importance, was the coordinated international action inspired by our common values of solidarity, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, which was critical in sending the right message to the former President to respect the will of the people and leave without bloodshed.”
Jammeh was forced to flee to Equatorial Guinea two days after his mandate expired. The West African force, ECOMIG, advanced towards the island capital, Banjul when mediation efforts by Guinea’s Lansana Conte and Mauritania’s Mohammed Ould Abdul Aziz seem not be making progress.
Fearing civil war, more than 150,000 Gambians were internally displaced and some 75,000 others fled to neighboring nations causing a humanitarian crisis at the northern border with Senegal.
The UN refugee agency deployed more than 40 tons of aid, mostly food and sanitary materials but Jammeh was finally ousted without bloodshed, avoiding a conflict that could see the peace in the West African sub-region jeopardized.
“During those difficult times, we knew we had friends, ones who came to our aid and who have since kept faith with us. We, therefore, would like to seize this great opportunity to thank the leaders of ECOWAS for their timely and firm intervention in bringing peace to The Gambia. We also thank all our regional and international friends who stood by us in our critical hour of need,” Barrow reemphasized.
“Thanks to your collective efforts, The Gambia is now on a solid path to peace and good governance and ready to take over our traditional role among the champions of human rights and democracy. Gambians have made an irreversible choice to close a dark chapter in our history and today, our national agenda is one of reform and transformation.”
Jammeh had left the country’s economy on the brink of collapse. He ransacked the treasury and emptied the reserves bank leaving with at least $50 million in cash to Equatorial Guinea.
The Barrow administration was left to scramble for aid. The UN, World Bank, IMF, ADB and Gambia’s main development partner, the EU came to the country’s aid, pumping more than $150 million to jumpstart economic recovery.
In the rarest economic gains for the country in nearly a decade, following a two-month-long political impasse that left a shock in the country’s economic stability, the Gambia’s foreign exchange reserved increased by five-fold.
Normalcy has returned to The Gambia, although Barrow’s government faces some security challenges, including the threat of an armed opposition to his rule by Jammeh’s loyalist that have deserted the army.
President Barrow has extended and widened the mandate of the West African troops amid the implementation of a security reform program that will see Barrow assert his authority and the weeding of Jammeh’s loyalists.