Gambia plans Feb. 18 celebration as new leader arrives home

Billboards across Gambia's capital are declaring a Feb. 18 ceremony to mark the inauguration of the country's new leader, a day after his triumphant arrival.

Hundreds of thousands turned out Thursday to greet President Adama Barrow, a week after he took the oath of office in neighboring Senegal. Longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh, who clung to power despite losing December elections, finally flew into exile over the weekend.

Gambia has high hopes for Barrow, who has vowed to create greater freedoms in this tiny West African nation.

"Much has to be done to tell the people their vote counts," spokesman Halifa Sallah said Friday.

A regional force that secured Gambia for Barrow's arrival says it will reduce its presence gradually. Barrow wants it to stay for six months to provide security.