September 11, 2014 – Reported by the Daily Maverick – First, the good news. Gambian President Yahya Jammeh doesn’t want to kill gay people. Not any more, at least; and not all gay people. It was only six years ago, in 2008, that he threatened to “cut off the head” of any gay person found in the Gambia if they hadn’t left the country within 24 hours. Under huge international pressure, he later retracted this threat. Now he just wants to kill Gambian citizens whose sexual orientation forces them to seek asylum somewhere else. “If I catch them I will kill them,” he said in May this year.
It’s a somewhat contradictory message – damned if they stay, damned if they go – that illustrates the plight of Gambia’s LGBTI community (“the vermin”, as Jammeh likes to call them). Basically, their situation is bad, and about to get a whole lot worse.
Already, homosexual acts in Gambia are punishable by up to 14 years in prison. And this legislation is no historical hangover, but is actively enforced. In one incident in 2012, 18 men were arrested and charged under the laws.