The new Gambian President, Adama Barrow, expects a triumphant welcome in Banjul on Thursday (26 January) when he finally returns to start rebuilding his country.

"I am returning tomorrow and I am expecting a big welcome, the biggest welcome in the history of our country, for the simple reason that we were able to remove from power the previous president who was there for the past 22 years," the 51-year-old leader told IBTimes UK during an interview in Senegal's capital Dakar.

Barrow was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Dakar earlier this month, just days after strongman Yahya Jammeh went into exile on 21 January.

The former businessman, who led a broad opposition coalition to defeat Jammeh, has been busy appointing members of his new government and working with Senegalese authorities to repatriate Gambian refugees. He is preparing to the take the helm of a nation that activists have described as being "held ransom by Jammeh for 22 years."

Barrow said: "It was a very difficult transition, lots of diplomacy. But it has been resolved peacefully. People are excited, people are happy, I cannot wait to go home and build a new Gambia."

Barrow, who previously called on West African troops to remain in Gambia until security is fully restored, reassured his people that the country is now safe. The president, who lived in London for about three years in the early 2000s, also called on the Gambian community living abroad to follow his example and go back to their homeland.

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"Gambia has been liberated, everyone is free to come back home now. And everyone can contribute to the development of our country, because only Gambians can develop The Gambia and we are calling on them to come back home. It is a national duty," he said.

Gambians at home and abroad are eager to see the birth of a new Gambia free from repression.

However, they are aware that Jammeh's departure does not automatically mean peace is restored in the country.

Issues such as government accountability, ethnic tensions and electoral and constitutional reforms will all need to be addressed.

Barrow, however, is confident that his country is heading in the right direction. He invited tourists, who were evacuated after the previous government declared a state of emergency, to go back to The Gambia.

"Gambia is very safe now, the environment is very conducive for tourists to come back and enjoy themselves. Come and enjoy the new Gambia" he said.