DAKAR, Senegal – Adama Barrow is a former businessman and real estate mogul who emerged as the unlikely head of a coalition of several Gambian opposition parties. He was sworn in Thursday in Gambia's embassy in neighboring Senegal after a dramatic political crisis — and just days after a personal tragedy.
Out of fears for his safety in Gambia, he has been staying in Senegal and did not return home even after his 7-year-old son was killed in a dog attack.
Shortly after winning election in December, the 51-year-old Barrow said he planned to reverse longtime leader Yahya Jammeh's decisions to pull out of both the Commonwealth, a group made up mostly of former British colonies, and the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes the world's worst atrocities such as genocide.
In his inauguration speech, Barrow promised to expand "the democratic gains that we have made" and vowed "a new start" for the nation.
While officially elected to a five-year term, Barrow has said would serve only three years with a goal of repairing Gambia's democracy before making the way for new leadership.
"When we get that done, then the foundation is there, and myself, I will not be in the political scene," he said in December.
Barrow also has said he would prioritize reviving the tiny West African country's stagnant economy and improving Gambia's relationships with the international community.
He has said his government would examine human rights abuses committed under Jammeh and would be committed to due process and administering justice that would not be "personal."
He has promised reforms to Gambia's security forces, which were accused of many abuses under Jammeh.
"We will improve their training to give them the professionalism to do their job," Barrow said. "With our government, they will be distanced from politics."
One Thursday, Amnesty International urged Barrow to follow through. "We must not forget the big promises Adama Barrow has made to free political prisoners, remove repressive laws and bring Gambia back to the International Criminal Court," a West Africa researcher for the group, Sabrina Mahtani, said in a statement.