Gambians decided to end 22 years of dictatorship in a non-violent manner by voting President Adama Barrow into power. This brought back focus to the tiny West Africa state and the move to re-institute democracy, freedom and justice was welcomed by not only Gambians and the sub-region but the world over. However, the former president Yaya Jammeh could not accept the fact that that Gambians wanted change of regime and he was prepared to use brutal means to maintain himself in power. It was in this context that the sub-regional grouping, ECOWAS, supported by the regional and global community decided to use diplomacy and, where it became necessary, military intervention to defend the will of Gambians.
This resulted to President Adama Barrow taking the responsibility Gambians vested on him to serve them.
Going by the African proverb that if you want to thank a farmer for a job well done, you have to meet to him or her on their farm to express appreciation. His Excellency, President Adama Barrow, therefore, visited the Heads of State of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana to thank them for their personal stand and that of their countries to ensure that Gambians regain their freedom and nurture democracy. The message the Gambian leader gave to his fellow Heads of State was that the political impasse in The Gambia was an African problem and they used an African solution to end it. He thanked them for standing by the Gambian people and defending the decision they took to bring about a peaceful change of transition. It was the first time Gambians decided to democratically change from one government to another in 52 years.
During his visit, President Adama Barrow held private meetings with his counterparts on bilateral and ECOWAS issues to further strengthen the relationship between them and their people.
The first stage of the visit, which was to Sierra Leone, coincided with the eve of that country’s 56th Independent anniversary. President Barrow was received at Lunge Airport by the Vice President, H.E. Victor Bokari Foh and other officials. The Gambian leader was honoured with a banquet dinner held in his honour at the Bintou Manne Hotel in Freetown.
His Excellency, the President of Sierra Leone, Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, in his welcome remarks said it was both an ECOWAS and bilateral responsibility to defend the will of the Gambian people. He elaborated on the historic, language and family ties between Sierra Leone and The Gambia, and asserted that it was only through collaborative efforts that they could deliver the quality of life their people expect.
In Liberia, President Adama Barrow was received at the airport by the Liberian President, Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also the Chairperson of ECOWAS. Speaking to the media at the Airport in Monrovia, Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, expressed delight for President Barrow’s visit and assured of Liberia and the ECOWAS family’s continued support to The Gambia. During the visit, the GambianPresident was granted the Key to the City of Monrovia at the City Hall and declared a Honourary Citizen by the Mayoress of the City, Mrs Clara Doe Mvogo.
The last stage of his tour was to Ghana. On arrival, Gambian President and delegation were received by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway. After performing the Friday prayers at Burma Camp Mosque in Accra, President Barrow was honoured to a private lunch at the presidential mansion, the Flagstaff House, in Accra. In welcoming his guest, Ghanaian President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo said that Ghana did not hesitate in agreeing to contribute troops to the ECOWAS initiative to ensure a smooth transition in The Gambia. He observed that the region should continue to consolidate democracy in order to achieve sustainable development. In response, President Barrow noted the similarities between his government and that of his host, His Excellency, President Akufo-Addo, and the manner in which both came from the opposition and won their respective elections. He, however, said the major difference was that Ghana went through a smooth transition while the transition in The Gambia was obstructed by greed for power which warranted ECOWAS intervention. President Barrow reiterated that the election was fought based on the principles of democracy and the will of the people prevailed.
The Gambian President used the opportunity to meet with the Gambian communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana. They all thanked their host countries for the hospitality extended to them but appealed for consideration of some of their concerns which include poor flight arrangements, difficulties in the renewal of their travel documents and the high cost of residence permit fees.
Speaking to them, President Barrow thanked the Gambians in the diaspora for their contributions to the change in the Gambia. He further urged them to continue to contribute positively to the development of the country as no one person can do it all. He stated that because of the challenges Gambians have gone through during 22 years of dictatorship, no government will ever stay in power for more than two terms of five years. President Barrow pointed out that Gambians have matured politically as demonstrated in the 2016 Presidential elections. He cited three lessons all have learnt from the election. Firstly, it became clear to the former president that it was the people who had the power to vote him out, secondly, it is the same power the people can use to vote him(President Barrow) out if they don’t want him anymore, and finally, Gambians have now realized that together they can make the change they want. President Barrow reminded them that it was only when all the opposition parties came together that they were able to effect the change of regime. The Gambian President called on the Gambians in the Diaspora to consider investment in The Gambia. He appealed to Gambians experts working outside the country to contribute with ideas to develop the country.
Speaking to the Gambians inMonrovia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Honourable Ousainou Darbo advised Gambians at home and in the diaspora to be law abiding, do away with tribal issues and stay united in pursuit of the best interest of the Gambia. He informed them that they represent the image of the Gambia abroad and promised that the consular issues they raised in the discussions will be reviewed and addressed at the earliest possible time.