Gambia celebrates its 50th year of independence from the United Kingdom this week, marking half a century of sovereignty as one of the most recently independent nations in Africa.
Festivities occurred throughout the river country, but mainly in the country’s capital Banjul, where President Yahyah Jammeh joined citizens in celebrating their independence from the UK. Gambia, together with Malawi and a few more countries in Africa, seceded from the UK in the 1960s, significantly weakening British influence in the continent.
In a televised speech watched by many citizens of the country, Jammeh reminded Gambians about the ills of colonization, “Colonialism was an exploitative system interested in the monopoly of raw materials and markets were established through violence and usurping of political power.”
Despite festivities in the capital, activists and foreign critics of the Gambian government reminded about longstanding allegations of human rights abuse in the country. According to Yahoo News, cases of forced disappearances, forced censorship of journalism, political killings and torture are rife in the West African country. Six weeks before celebrations of independence commenced in Gambia, and while Jammeh was conveniently in Dubai for a visit, a coup attempt by former Gambian military forces rattled Banju but was quickly dispersed by presidential guards. The coup attempt was allegedly funded by a wealthy Gambian-born businessman in Texas, according to the Guardian.
Amnesty International recently released a comprehensive report on Gambia’s current political atmosphere, describing basic citizen rights such as access to free media and information “seriously curtailed.”
“The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are seriously curtailed as the government keeps a tight control of the media and journalists and human rights defenders continue to be arbitrarily arrested, detained and subject to enforced disappearance.”
Jammeh’s rule as president was also heavily criticized by Amnesty International and other international human rights groups. In 2013, Inquisitr reported on the 49-year-old’s harsh comments against the LGBT community, describing homosexuality as a “global threat.” In a United Nations convention in New York, in front of many world leaders and diplomats, Jammeh said, “Those who promote homosexuality want to put an end to human existence. It is becoming an epidemic and we Muslims and Africans will fight to end this behavior.”
John Kerry, who attended the event, said “In too many places around the world, LGBT persons are still punished for simply exercising their fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Gambia is the smallest nation in the African mainland and one of the smallest countries in the world.
[Image from Wikimedia]