On April 18, 2016 The Daily Beast reported: Declaring little Gambia an ‘Islamic Republic’ is a cynical ploy by President Jammeh, but the consequences for his people are huge, and for LGBT Gambians, horrific.
WARRI, Nigeria — To paraphrase the 18th century sage Samuel Johnson, Islamism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. One might cite any number of examples, but none is quite so striking as the latest ploy by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who has declared his hitherto secular country an “Islamic Republic.”
After decades as a weirdly mystical president—and a blood-curdling homophobe who threatened last fall to slit the throats of gays—Jammeh made his big announcement on Dec. 12, and life in The Gambia (also called, simply, Gambia) has gotten uglier ever since.
The 1996 constitution of this little country of fewer than 2 million people, with its capital on the sea and most of its land sandwiched inside Senegal, would remain unchanged. And Jammeh declared that this “Islamic state” would be a tolerant one.
In a widely televised broadcast, Jammeh said there would be no restrictions on dress and that Christians and followers of other faiths, who make up around 10 percent of the population, “would be given their due respect.”
But that didn’t last long.In January, an executive order, leaked to pro-opposition newspapers, said that an “executive directive has been issued that all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours.”
“Female staff are urged to use head tie and neatly wrap their hair,” it added, without giving reasons for the order. “All are strictly advised to adhere to this new directive.
”Persecution of homosexuals had come as a sort of prelude to this latest move. In recent years they have been the target of new discriminatory legislation, arbitrary detention, and mistreatment in The Gambia. After an “aggravated homosexuality” law was passed in October 2014, imposing a life sentence for several offenses, dozens of LGBT people fled the country.“
The new law treats consensual, private sexual activity between adults of the same sex—which should not be a crime—in the same way as rape and incest,” Steve Cockburn, deputy regional director for West and Central Africa at Amnesty International, said at the time.“
The vague and imprecise provisions of this law could be used to arrest and detain anyone who is believed to be gay or lesbian, and contributes to the already severe climate of hostility and fear for LGBTI people in the country,” said Cockburn.
Jammeh has never hidden his dislike for gay people. The Gambian leader was recently quoted as saying animals are more godly than gays and that if the West wants gays so much, “they should just put planes at the airport” and he “will be happy for them to leave.”
“I have the largest number of pigs and cattle, and I have never seen a male pig climbing on top of another male pig or a male cattle climbing on top of another male cattle,” Gambia’s leading Freedom Newspaper quoted him as saying during the state opening of the country’s parliament on March 31. “I will rather die than to allow it [homosexuality] to happen in Gambia. If they want to perpetrate it, we will be merciless.”
Following Jammeh’s declaration of Islamic statehood, the country’s Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), a group of scholars, went around the country stirring up popular support for the development. The president said legislation to enforce his declaration would soon be introduced into parliament and the national flag would be changed to reflect the country’s new status. The national broadcaster has already taken to referring to The Gambia as the “Islamic Republic.”