Yahya Jammeh, the President of the small West African country of Gambia has proclaimed his country an Islamic state in a speech given to parliament yesterday.
The statement is in line with the country’s religious identity and values, says the president, who assures the rights of Christians will be protected. Approximately 90 percent of the Gambia’s 1.96 million inhabitants are Muslims.
Yahya Jammeh added the following: “Gambia’s fate is in Allah’s hands. From today, Gambia is an Islamic state. We will be an Islamic state that respects the rights of all citizens.”
However, a prominent opposition politician noted that in any case such a decision would require a referendum.
50-year-old Jammeh has a past as a military officer. Since he took power in a Coup d’état in 1994, he has ruled the country with an iron fist. He cultivates an image as a practicing Muslim and is often seen carrying the Quran.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch stated in a report in September that the president’s regime is one of the most repressive in torture and extrajudicial executions.