Huge crowds gathered in the streets of The Gambia's capital city Banjul, as President Adama Barrow prepared to take the oath of office on Saturday (18 February), the anniversary of the country's independence from the UK.

Many started queuing for entrance into the Independence Stadium in Bakau, west of the capital city, on Friday.

"I spent the night here at the stadium. This is to ensure that I can have a smooth passage inside", Isatou Dibba, a Barrow supporter said.

Security for the ceremony is so tight many US and British diplomats have found it difficult to gain access to the stadium, an AFP reporter said.

Barrow is due to retake his oath, which he first did in neighbouring Senegal a month ago when former President Yahya Jemmeh was ousted.

Around 500 Senegalese, Ghanaian and Nigerian soldiers remain in the country and are helping provide security during the event.

At the ceremony, 52 pigeons will be released, representing each year of independence from Britain. Senegal's president Mickey Sall is among the guests of honour.

"We are the same people, and we remain the same people," he said in a Washington Post report.

"It is a very important day for all those who have voted for Barrow. People have been waiting inside the stadium for a long time," said an Al Jazeera reporter speaking from Banjul. "The atmosphere is absolutely electric. Barrow's main challenge now is to bring in reforms into the security services. The security services were very loyal to Jammeh."

The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is among the dignitaries expected to attend the ceremony.

The Gambia's first leader, Dawda Jawara, who governed from independence in 1965 until the 1994 coup mounted by Jammeh, has also been invited, organisers told AFP.

Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also helped mediate the removal of Jammeh during his last days in office, is also expected as well as Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, another key mediator.

Barrow, 52, a former property developer, who has never held public office, came to power on a raft of measures including rejoining the Commonwealth and staying in the International Criminal Court as well as freeing political prisoners.

Ex-president Jammeh is now living in exile in Equatorial Guinea after being forced to accept defeat in the December 2016 elections.