The head of Gambia’s army pledged allegiance to President-elect Adama Barrow in a phone call, Barrow’s spokeswoman said, in a key sign of support after his unexpected election victory over long-standing incumbent, Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow, a former real estate developer who once worked as a security guard at retailer Argos in London, ended Jammeh’s 22 years of authoritarian rule by winning 45.5% of the vote on December 1.
Jammeh called Barrow to congratulate him on his victory last week but has not met with him officially. It is still unclear whether he will keep his promise to leave power peacefully. That made the allegiance to Barrow of General Ousman Badjie, chief of defence staff, all the more important.
“General Badjie called to congratulate Mr. Barrow on his victory and to offer his allegiance,” Barrow’s press secretary, Amie Bojang, told Reuters.
It was another event in a remarkable few days in the Gambia. Jammeh had regularly crushed political opposition and once said he wanted to rule for a billion years. His unexpected fall from power was greeted with joyous surprise in Banjul, the capital, with crowds pulling down ubiquitous posters of Jammeh and trampling them underfoot.
A heavy police presence remains on the streets of the capital. Last week’s parties have subsided, but people continue to offer each other congratulations when they meet.
Barrow, a low-key character who has quietly risen in the ranks of Gambian politics, has promised to form a united government to oversee a three-year transition of power before new elections are held.
Already, there have been changes. In the last two days, 31 political prisoners have been released or granted bail after their arrests earlier in the year for protesting.