Tens of people remained outside unable to get into a mega hall in Manhattan, New York on Saturday, where President Adama Barrow had a meeting with Gambians in the United States.
It was not the usual kind of fury and anger with which Gambians greeted their leaders in the last two decades, this was of fanfare and rejoice over the end of decades of repression and human rights abuses.
Gambian activists met former President Yahya Jammeh with placards calling him a “dictator and terrorist,” screaming for him to step down and to free political prisoners.
Barrow was met with cheers and the crowd screamed his name as he got to address the hall packed with hundreds of people. To some activists, they would have never guessed that many Gambians lived around New York.
Jammeh had instilled so much fear in his citizens, many decided to stay away from politics. Only a handful of people showed up on the streets of New York to protest against his regime.
Social media, especially Facebook was used by Jammeh’s political adversaries and right defenders to launch campaigns highlighting corruption. Many, wanting to return to their native Gambia on holidays and fearing arrest of their family members stayed away from commenting.
But with Barrow, it is different. Even those that have turned out to be critics of the new government were able to enter to be part of Saturday’s gathering and listened to what their new leader had to say.
Although organizers faced criticism for canceling a question and answer session, the program that was to last two hours lasted six hours. The people were generally happy to grace the meeting.
The President of the Borough of Manhattan also declared September 23 as Gambia Freedom Day, a strong indication of the country’s building of new friendships and renewing broken ties.