By Kemo Cham
Gambian President Adama Barrow is expected to arrive in Sierra Leone on Wednesday evening as part of a tour of four member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which helped negotiate the peaceful resolution of last year’s disputed presidential election in his country.
According to Sierra Leone government officials, he will hold talks and dinner with host President Ernest Bai Koroma, as well as meet with a cross section of the Gambian community living in the country.
President Koroma was part of a four-member delegation headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia assigned by ECOWAS to persuade long-time leader Yahya Jammeh to step down after he refused to accept the outcome of the December 1 poll that brought to an end his 22 year rule.
Jammeh had based his decision for refusing to leave on errors committed by the electoral commission which he later accused of conniving with the opposition to deny him victory.
The ECOWAS delegation that also included President Muhamadu Buhari of Nigeria, and former Ghanaian president John Mahama, held unsuccessful talks in Banjul.
A second attempt by the regional bloc failed to convince Jammeh to step aside. But later, in the face of advancing ECOWAS troops from Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria, Jammeh eventually was flown to Equatorial Guinea where he currently lives in exile.
The Gambian government says Barrow’s visit is intended to thank the four countries’ leaders for their role played in resolving the political impasse.
Barrow in March fulfilled a promise to make his first international visit to neighbouring Senegal, which led the ECOWAS troops named ECOMIG.
Senegal hosted him for about two weeks while negotiations were ongoing. President Barrow was in fact sworn into office inside the country’s embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. The Senegalese government later flew him into Banjul after the departure of Jammeh.
Barrow’s ECOWAS tour comes about a week after a controversial visit to the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) which attracted widespread condemnation at home. Critics say that visit to the central African nation amounted to an endorsement of President Dennis Sassou Nguessou whose government has been accused of undemocratic practices including human rights violations against his political opponents. The foregn minister Oussainou Daboe said it was a private visit.
Besides its role in the resolution of the electoral impasse, Sierra Leone is home to a substantial number of Gambian nationals who are mostly involved in the diamond mining sector. Gambia also serves as home to many Sierra Leoneans who went to the country during the11 years of civil war here. Many Sierra Leoneans in the country are involved in teaching.
Barrow will leave Freetown for Abuja on Thursday.
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