Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has returned to the country to assume power – days after his predecessor Yahya Jammeh left to go into exile.
President Barrow’s plane touched down at Banjul airport where jubilant crowds waited to welcome him. After landing, he tweeted: “I’m finally home #Gambia.”
Mr Barrow, dressed in white robes and a cap, stepped off the plane in Banjul as heavily armed troops from Senegal and Nigeria stood by.
Overhead, a fighter jet from the West African force guaranteeing the new president’s security performed fly-pasts.
“I am a happy man today,” Mr Barrow told a reporter from the Associated Press in the crush at the airport, adding: “I think the bad part is finished now.”
The president said his priority was to appoint his cabinet and “then get the ball rolling”.
The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Banjul said that thousands of people had tried to force their way into the airport to see Mr Barrow return and they burst into celebration as soon as his plane touched down.
President Barrow was driven from the airport in a convoy of cars and waved to the crowds who lined the route. bSupporter Ibrahima Gaye said Mr Barrow would be different from Mr Jammeh “in all aspects”.
“We have been living under dictatorship for 22 years. You can go home at night and sleep without worrying you will be arrested before daybreak,” he said.
President Barrow is staying at his own home while a security assessment is carried out at the official residence, State House.
Mr Barrow was sworn in as president at the Gambian embassy in Senegal a week ago, but a public inauguration on home soil is planned soon, aides say.
The UN envoy for West Africa, Mohamed ibn Chambas, has said the UN will help guarantee security in The Gambia.
Several thousand West African soldiers remain in The Gambia amid reports that rogue pro-Jammeh elements are embedded in the country’s security forces.
The new president has asked for the force to remain in The Gambia for six months.
His spokesman Halifa Sallah said an inauguration was being planned for the national stadium in Banjul. “It will be an occasion to show strength. Everyone will be invited. The president will address his people,” he told Senegalese radio.