By John Ruberry
The world has a new Islamic republic. On Friday Gambia’s strongman president, Yahya Jammeh, declared the impoverished west African nation that is almost completely surrounded by Senegal, a Muslim state. Other such nations are Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mauritania–none of which are well-known for freedom or prosperity.
Jammeh promises freedom of religion to the citizens of Africa’s smallest non-island nation.
Jeffrey Smith, a senior advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights told Al Jazeera that day, “Gambia is not a country of laws but is rather ruled by the whims of Yahya Jammeh.”
Jammeh seized control of Gambia in a bloodless coup in 1994 and while there have been elections since then, of course in the African tradition he has won each with resounding majorities.
What of those whims that Smith mentioned?
Jammeh detests gays. In speech given earlier this year the despot warned them, “If you do it [in Gambia] I will slit your throat,” adding, “if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”
In 2007 Jammeh announced that he had developed an herbal cure for AIDS, sometimes he even administers his crackpot treatment to the afflicted.
Freedom of the press is limited in Gambia and the nutjob’s opponents often “disappear.”
Jammeh claimed in 2010–without citing evidence–that both the first Atlantic flight and the first Eastern European flight ended in Gambia.
Despite the dictator’s eccentricities and his terrible human rights record, President Obama welcomed Jammeh and one of his wives to the White House last year.
Is Jammeh Gambia’s answer to Idi Amin?
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.