Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh declares the formerly secular country an Islamic republic in a move he said was designed to distance the West African state further from its colonial past.
BRUFUT, GAMBIA (DECEMBER 10, 2015) (GRFS TV) – Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Thursday (December 10) declared the formerly secular country an Islamic republic in a move he said was designed to distance the West African state further from its colonial past.
The tiny sliver of a country, named after the river from which British ships once allegedly fired cannonballs to fix its borders, joins the ranks of other Islamic Republics such as Iran and Afghanistan.
“As from today, Gambia is an Islamic republic,” he said. “We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of all citizens and non-citizens.”
Gambia’s population of 1.8 million people is 95 percent Muslim. He said that other citizens of other faiths would still be able to practise.
Jammeh, an animated orator who has earned the reputation for making surprise declarations over the course of his 21-year presidency, pulled Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it neo-colonial. In 2007, he claimed to have found a herbal cure for AIDS.
Despite strong commercial ties with Britain and other European countries whose citizens are regular visitors to Gambia’s white-sand beaches, relations with the West have deteriorated in recent years.
The European Union temporarily withheld aid money to the country last year over Gambia’s poor human rights record. Gambia, whose main industries are agriculture and tourism, ranks 165 out of 187 countries on the U.N. development index.