African Commission must leave Banjul

By Richard Lee | February 19th, 2014

Enough is enough! There are no more excuses left. It is time for the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights to pack its bags and leave Banjul – promising to return to its original home when President Yahya Jammeh is eventually removed from office.

Jammeh has given the ACHPR numerous reasons to leave in the past – since his dictatorial regime has trampled on every single human right that the Commission is sworn to uphold, including executing a group of prisoners in 2012. Staying in the Gambia gives the impression, year after year, that the commission – and indeed the continent – is not genuinely committed to protecting and promoting human rights, whatever rulings it makes.

But Jammeh’s latest outburst is surely a step too far? During a speech on state TV, Jammeh ranted – once again about homosexuals – but this time he took his usual homophobic hate speech to a whole new level with a clear public incitement to murder.

“We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” said Jammeh.

It might sound ludicrous – even funny in an utterly absurd way. But remember this is the president of a country essentially calling for people to be killed. Totally innocent people. People with the same rights as everyone else. People who simply happen to love someone of the same sex.

“As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhoea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence,” he added.

It is crystal clear that Jammeh is far more detrimental to human existence in the Gambia than anyone else, let alone gays and lesbians. It is also clear that leaving the ACHPR in the country has not contributed in any way to promoting or protecting human rights. So it should move - sending a signal that Jammeh’s violations of human rights have gone too far.

It is not a signal that Jammeh will take much notice of. Indeed, he will probably smile as he has been doing his utmost to get rid of the ACHRP for years. But it will at least give the Commission a credibility boost (which it sorely needs, especially as its next session is being hosted in Angola).

And maybe it will make the European Union think twice about its plans to double aid to the Gambia over the next seven years - and that is something that Jammeh would certainly notice.

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