Friday, 24 July 2009

The Gambian President And His Stupid Ignorant Ranting

The President of the Gambia, Yahya Jammeh has issued a strongly-worded warning to all hotel and house owners in the tiny West African country to desist from renting their houses and hotel rooms to homosexuals or face the music. This warning is coming barely a year after he asked the homosexuals to leave the country or risk having their heads cut off.

This type of statement is very worrisome and very disturbing coming from a head of the state of a country and the implication could be disastrous not only to the Gambians but also to foreigners and tourists who are part of the bed rock of the economy of the tiny West African nation.

It is sad that up till this moment there has been no strong condemnation either from his fellow African leaders or the international community over the careless and irresponsible statement.

Specifically on May 23 this year, President Jammeh urged party members of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), who represents the majority in the country’s National Assembly, not to rent or allow homosexuals to stay in their compounds. The statement was made at a monument commemorating the 1994 coup that brought him, a former lieutenant in the Gambian army, into power.

Last year, President Jammeh publicly denounced homosexuality and gave LGBT people in Gambia an ultimatum to leave the country stating that he would “cut off the head” of anyone believed to be homosexual discovered in Gambia. He also warned Gambian hotel owners not to rent rooms to homosexuals.

This is a very serious issue bearing in mind that the right to housing is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which is also articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Also, the rights to dignity and security, components of the right to housing, are guaranteed under the Gambian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Both instrument specifically stated that states may not permit forced evictions and must ensure non-discrimination in access to adequate housing for all of its citizens.

The Number 4 of the General Comment of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) describes the right to adequate housing as “the right to live somewhere in security, peace, and dignity,” and states that individual are entitled to adequate housing without discrimination. The Number 7 on forced evictions requires States to refrain from forced evictions, to enforce the law against third parties who forcibly evict and to take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination while the Number 20 states that sexual orientation and gender identity is a prohibited ground of discrimination under ICESCR and thus State Parties, including the Gambia, may not discriminate or forcibly evict people on these grounds. Moreover, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing urges States to protect all persons from forced evictions and ensure non-discriminatory access to adequate housing for persons belonging to minorities.

The right to adequate housing additionally implicates the rights to dignity, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, security of the home, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.

The fact is that in every democracy all citizens have the right to adequate housing and any government that could not provide adequate housing to its citizens or deny them one as a result of their sexuality should bury their heads in shame. On that note the Gambian leader should bury his head in shame.

Europe and America have been crying and shouting of illegal immigration and increasing number of asylum seekers coming to their country-including Nick Griffin the leader of the British National Party who recently called for the death of illegal immigrants entering into Europe-but it is exactly statements like this from the Gambian leader that pushes the marginalised and vulnerable people to leave their home country in the first place to seek for better life and security elsewhere. I am therefore flabbergasted that the European Union and even the United States have not made a very strong statement to condemn this neo-Nazi statement.

In a democracy which the Gambia claims to be, a state does not belong to an individual and it is never run according to the dictates, whims and caprices of an individual, no matter how intelligent or passionate the person is. It is a common wealth run by everybody in that state through their elected representatives and the meaning of this is that the State of Gambia is made up of people of different religions, creed, sexual orientation and colours and under the democracy all these interests must be protected.

The fact that the Gambian leader is homophobic should not be a reason for him to initiate a reign of terror and witch hunt against his own people and the people he hated with passion. Under democracy, not liking somebody or their opinion is never an excuse or a ground to maltreat them. Every Gambian irrespective of their colour, language, sexual orientation or religion and even creed are equal before and under the law and the constitution of the State of Gambia and that fact must be accepted and respected.

The world should do something. Infamous world leaders including Hitler and Mussolini all began like this and we do not want a repeat of what happened prior and during the Second World War to happen again. If this is allowed to happen in Africa, it could be disastrous bearing in mind the high level of poverty, hatred, division and ignorance in the continent.

The Gambian leader is not new to controversy and had in the past made numerous stupid ranting like this one. Couple of years back he claimed he could cure HIV and AIDS with traditional medicine leaving sane minds to begin to question the sanity of his own mind. It is a big shame that Africans could allow itself to be ruled by ignorant people like President Jammeh. Is that not another shame on the continent which refuses to grow due to leaders like him, outbursts like this, lack of respect for human rights, denial of facts, hatred amongst its people and state endorsed and encouraged discriminations and homophobia.

Ignorance and poverty fuels homophobia and stalls peace and development and if the likes of the Gambian President are allowed to go on with this type of provocation, it could be disastrous not only for the country but also for the entire West African region and the whole continent.

This is very disturbing and we cannot afford to keep quiet, silent and neutral when people’s lives are at stake. The respect for boundaries and sovereignty should never be put into consideration in times like this and times like this are exactly when sanctions and embargos are highly needed. The Gambia should be the centre of the world till the Gambian President regains his sanity. We cannot continue to tolerate this type of ignorance and foolish ranting and outbursts from shallow African leaders who wallow in corruption and still have time to condemn their people and make life miserable for them.

The sad story is that at the end of the day, the poor masses are going to bear the consequences. If the tourists stop coming for fear of their lives, the economy could be weakened and the common people would surely bear the brunt while corrupt leaders like Jammeh would have nothing to worry about after all they have stolen a lot of wealth to take them till thy kingdom come. And it is this truism that Africans should be aware of before jumping in the bandwagon of their ignorant leaders. Look at Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, he enjoys while his people die of hunger, starvation and disease. I think it is high time Africans woke up from their slumber. They have slept enough!

The right to housing and sexual orientation are fundamental human right issues and the Gambia being a signatory to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is under obligation to respect the instrument. It does not really matter what the president and his political party believe in, after all the Gambia is not a theocracy and even if it is, the president and his men who are stinking of corruption should be reminded that corruption is a very big sin and antagonistic to theocracy.

Any reasonable state should not force a religion on its citizen. The people have a right to make a choice including the right to choose and abandon any religion without the fear of threat, harm, intimidation or murder. They also have the right to choose not to believe in anything and that choice must be respected because they are inalienable, sacred, democratic and inherent in human nature.

Therefore whatever pushed the Gambian leader to make such statements should also push him to withdraw such a nasty statement. Such a statement is capable of inciting hatred against the homosexuals and the international community should force him to bear the consequences of any action generated by this callous statement.

No comments:

Post a Comment