By Ellise Nicholls
Adama Barrow, Gambia’s new president, says that he will be returning to the country on Thursday to assume power after his predecessor quit power under threat of military intervention.
Mr Barrow, who had been staying in Senegal, won the election in December.
A handover was stalled, however, when Gambia’s president of 22 years, Yahya Jammeh, refused to step aside.
He left for exile after mediation at the weekend by regional leaders and threats of military intervention.
Mr Barrow was sworn in as president at the Gambian embassy in neighbouring Senegal a week ago, but a public inauguration on home soil is planned soon, aides say.
On Wednesday, Barrow’s aide, Mai Fatty, confirmed to AFP in Dakar on Wednesday that Gambia’s new president was preparing to head home from Senegal, where he has been since January 15 fearing for his safety.
He claimed “Yes, tomorrow afternoon” to AFP.
A source close to the Senegalese presidency and a displomatic source in the Gambia’s capital Banjul, had also confirmed the announcement made made on a Facebook page linked to the new president that Mr Barrow was due to arrive at 4:00pm (1600 GMT) on Thursday.
“Any changes to the above schedule will be communicated.” the Facebook statement said.
Barrow won the election in December, but for weeks Jammeh refused to step down, setting off a crisis that saw Barrow take his oath last week.
Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea at the weekend under threat of a regional military intervention, after more than two decades of presidency after taking power in a coup.
Barrow put off his return to The Gambia until is safety was to be guaranteed by thousands of soliders from five African nations currently deployed in the tiny nation, but unease had been growing over his prolonged absence.
The head of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Murcel Alain De Souza, told a briefing in Nigeria on Tuesday that the troops were working to secure Banjul and the surrounding area for Barrow’s return.
“Today or tomorrow, we will be able to indicate that President Adama Barrow, if he’s comfortable, can fly on.” De Souza had said.
Barrow has assured Jammeh that he will have all the rights legally ensured to an ex-president, which under Gambian law includes immunity from prosecution, barring a two-thirds of the national assemply.
The new government has confirmed that Jammah will be permitted to keep a fleet of luxury cars, while Fatty said Sunday that the former strongman leader had plundered state coffer’s before heading into exile, making off with $11mn dollars.