Last week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced that gay people had 24 hours to leave the country. He also mentioned that he would, “cut off the head” of any gay person found remaining after the deadline expired. Jammeh is known to spout such incendiary rubbish, so this is simply a stepped-up version of his usual homophobic trash talk.  

Gambia’s Daily Observer reports that in addition to his attacks on homosexuals, Jammeh, 

warned all those who harbour such individuals to kick them out of their compounds, noting that a mass patrol will be conducted on the instructions of the IGP and the director of the Gambia Immigration Department to weed bad elements in society. “Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful. We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country”.

*A letter to the Editor of the Daily Observer that takes issue with Jammeh’s statements, can be found here. The Editor’s rebuttal speaks for itself. 

I’d like to know why The Gambia is the host country for the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. Isn’t it high time to pass the torch to a country that isn’t into victimizing a sizable portion of its population? 

1.7 million people live in The Gambia. By conservative estimates, if 5% are gay, that is equal to 85,000 people. I truly doubt that when Jammeh issued his edict, he either wanted or expected to see a mass exodus of citizenry. It’s far more likely that he is simply using the homosexual population as a scapegoat for the county’s myriad problems. 

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is tackling this issue head on. Executive Director Paula Ettlebrick issued a harsh statement to Jammeh today. Keep checking the IGLHRC website because they will be posting actions that individuals and groups can take around this particular situation.