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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Poll return for exiled Gambian leader
Ex. President Sir Dawda Jawara at Heathrow Airport
Sir Dawda is pushing for a united opoosition front
Gambian Foreign Minister Sedat Jobe has cautiously welcomed news that former president Sir Dawda Jawara has said he will return home soon to lead his old party.

If he (Sir Dawda) is coming as a simple citizen he automatically falls within the framework of security guaranteed to every Gambian

Gambian foreign minister
Sir Dawda, who has been living in exile in Britain since he was overthrown in 1994, said he was honoured by the People's Progressive Party's call to lead it in presidential elections due in October.

His move follows a government announcement last week lifting restrictions on political activity by parties banned by Yaya Jammeh when he seized power in a military coup in 1994.

Mr Jobe said the return of all political exiles would help the incumbent president, Mr Jammeh, prove to the international community that Gambians believe he is the right man to lead the country.

Alliance bid

The foreign minister told the BBC's Network Africa programme: "If he (Sir Dawda) is coming as a simple citizen, he automatically falls within the framework of the security guaranteed for every Gambian."

A BBC correspondent in Banjul says opposition parties are considering an alliance in a bid to defeat President Jammeh and his government in the elections.

Gambia street scene
Gambians will be voting in October elections
Sir Dawda described such an alliance as "extremely important so that they present a united front against the regime which is a dictatorship".

Since Mr Jammeh came to power as a young military officer he has been under pressure from donors and the Commonwealth to provide a broader political base.

In 1996 his party won presidential and parliamentary elections to which there was limited participation by the opposition.

The economy is under performing and income from tourism has fallen well below expectations.

Gambia Foreign Minister Sedat Jobe
"The government guarantees security of every citizen"
Ex Gambian president Sir Dawda Jawara
"An alliance will be extremely important"
See also:

11 Apr 00 | Africa
Protests at Gambia killings
18 Jan 00 | Africa
More soldiers arrested in Gambia
04 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Gambia
25 Jul 01 | Africa
Timeline: Gambia
26 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Gambia
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