Gambia’s President sends to hell Amnesty and Ban Ki-moon

“I don’t see the point. People die in custody or during interrogations, it is really common. This time, there is only one dead and they want investigations? This is the President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh’s on May 29 comment in an interview released with the weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique. The Head of State goes on to declare that he will no investigation on the killing of the opponent Solo Sendang, as have asked the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and Amnesty International. Then, lays it on thick exclaiming, “Both can go to hell because no one can tell me what to do in my country”.

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh AFP/GETTY

Solo Sendang was one of the opposition party leader UDP (United Democratic Party), which on April 14 was arrested in Banjul while he was participating in a demonstration against the Jammeh regime, brutally repressed by the local security forces.

The street protests has cost the lives of three demonstrators, including Sendang, died because of torture after his arrest by the police. By the local authorities, there was no admission of death, not even the corpse was returned to the family for a proper burial.

A dictator of development

In the interview with Jeune Afrique, Jammeh also said to be “proud” of being labeled as a “dictator”, but stated to be “only a dictator of development”. Because when he took power Gambia was one of the poorest countries in the world, and now all of that has changed: there is an opposition, an elected parliament and more efficient public health system.

A statement that strongly contrasts with the Gambian reality marked by a monolithic regime that governs the country in total disregard of human rights, as confirmed by the numerous cases, reported by humanitarian organizations, of arbitrary arrest and subsequent torture against opponents of the regime.

In March last year, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel submitted a report on the Gambia, which states “torture is brutal and is practiced by beatings, electric shocks and suffocation.” In addition, some detainees have reported being forced to stick his head in a plastic bag filled with boiling water and other scald liquids.

The country is also in place one of the most repressive legislation on freedom of expression across the continent with laws that provide up to fifteen years in prison and heavy fines for the “improper” use of the Internet. Not including, it just getting in public the name of Jammeh can lead to arrest.

Not to mention the serious situation of danger in which are forced to live homosexuals and transgender, especially after the approval in August 2014 of the law introducing the charge of “aggravated homosexuality”, for which is even predicted a life sentence.

Compared to the elected parliament, it should be specified that Colonel Yahya Jammeh is one of the longest standing dictators in Africa, came to power in July 1994 following a coup that deposed the then President Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who for 24 years exercised an uninterrupted domination of the African country.

After taking office, Jammeh immediately suppressed all political parties and abolished the Constitution in order to run again in elections without any limit to the number of mandates. Elections marked by heavy fraud and lack of transparency, which since 1996 Jammeh has regularly won, as it is assumed that will win which one will be held on next December 1st.

Regarding the vaunted efficiency of the public health system, it is fair to observe that it is actually based on updated data of WHO, but the health situation is typical of a developing country with a significant incidence of infectious diseases and lack of facilities. Not to mention, that in the small state is widely spread the counterfeit medicine trade.

The extreme economic distress scenario

In the midst of all this, there is a backward economy and heavily dependent on international aid, which in recent years has been marked by profound crisis of its main sectors: agriculture tourism industry. Asituation which has contributed to slide the Gambia in the last position among the West African countries in terms of GDP per capita.

According to official estimates, the country is burdened with a poverty rate of 72% and unemployment of 38%, while the Gambian dalasi has undergone an uncontrolled depreciation against major currencies.

To complete the picture, the constant tension on the border with Senegal, reopened on May 24, after remaining standoff for more than three months for President Yahya Jammeh’s unilateral decision in increasing the tariff from CFA 4,000 to CFA 40,000.

All this should prompt them to think about why, despite having less than two million inhabitants, the Gambia is the third among the African countries from which the largest number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe.


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