Adama Barrow took the oath of office as Gambia’s new president of the third Republic on Thursday at country’s embassy in neighboring Senegal.
Barrow gave the oath in a tiny room in Gambia’s embassy in Dakar attended by Senegalese Prime Minister Muhammad Abdoulaye Dione, UN Africa Envoy Muhammad Ibn Chambas, IEC Chairman Alieu Momar Njai, foreign diplomats among other dignitaries.
Dressed all in white, 51-year-old Barrow on arrival waved to crowds outside the Embassy building on the residential street amid a heavy security presence.
He took the oath of office administered by the President of the Gambia Bar Association, Sheriff Marie Tambedou.
In his inaugural address, President Barrow said this victory is that of the Gambian people saying ‘Our flag will now fly high among those of the most democratic nations of the world’.
He said: “This is a day no Gambian will ever forget. Our national flag will now fly high among the most democratic nations of the world.
Barrow demanded “loyalty” from the armed forces calling for international support as regional troops prepared to back him in a showdown with incumbent Yahya Jammeh, who has refused to step down.
He asserted his new role as commander and chief of Gambia’s armed services, ordering soldiers to stay calm and remain in their barracks saying those who did not would be considered rebels.
“I command the chief of defence staff and officers of high command to demonstrate their loyalty to me as commander in chief without any delay. I command all members of the armed forces to remain in their barracks, those found wanting or in possession of firearms without my order will be considered rebels” Barrow said.
Barrow’s appeal that could trigger a military push into Gambia by West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc, which has said it is ready to remove by force former President Yahya Jammeh who remains defiant and insists on to power despite his mandate ended on January 19th.
“I hereby make an explicit appeal to ECOWAS, the (African Union) and the UN… to support the gov and people of the Gambia in enforcing their will, restoring their sovereignty and constitutional legitimacy,” he said.
ECOWAS and the African Union have said they will recognize Barrow from Thursday.
Senegal’s army, which has deployed hundreds of soldiers at the Gambian border, said on Wednesday it would be ready to cross into its smaller neighbor, which it surrounds, from midnight. Ghana has also pledged troops.
A senior military source in Nigeria, which pre-positioned war planes and helicopters in Dakar, said that regional forces would only act once Barrow had been sworn in.
Fearing unrest, thousands of Gambians have fled the country, the United Nations estimates, and diplomats said its Security Council would on Thursday vote on a resolution backing ECOWAS’s efforts.
Jammeh, in power since a 1994 coup and whose mandate ended overnight, initially conceded defeat to Barrow following a Dec. 1 election before back-tracking, saying the vote was flawed. Overnight talks to persuade him to stand down failed, despite his increasing political isolation.