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Maidenhead tourists safely home after crisis in The Gambia

A retired solicitor and his wife were caught in the political uncertainty that gripped a small African nation last week.

John Miles Griffiths, 77, and his wife Barbara, from Foxborough Court, off Shoppenhangers Road, Maidenhead, was enjoying his holiday in Bakau in The Gambia when president Yahya Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency, two days before he was due to step down.

The Economic Community of West African States had massed around 7,000 troops on the border after Jammeh had refused to cede power to president-elect Adama Barrow, a former security guard from north London who won the presidential election last month.

“We were never in any danger but we saw plenty of soldiers and road blocks that were set up by the outgoing president,” said John.

“We were told not to leave the hotel for the last few days. There was definitely a change in mood; the staff seemed nervous but they were still very professional.”

Gambia is popular with tourists for its pristine beach resorts and year-round sunshine.

“We were the last ones there. They said they were going to shut the hotel down after we left,” John added.

On Wednesday, January 18, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had issued travel advice ‘against all but essential travel to the Gambia due to ongoing political uncertainty and potential military intervention’.

The Economic Community of West African States had given Jammeh until noon that day to leave the country after the UN Security Council unanimously backed action against him.

This was later extended by two days.

John and Barbara flew home on Friday, before the deadline passed, after spending 10 days in the country.

The outgoing president eventually fled the country and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

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