Thursday, 9 June 2016
Unprecedented Protests Hit Gambia One Of The World’s Most Repressive Countries
Gambia’s authoritarian President Yahya Jammeh has ruled the country for over 20 years.
Gambia often receives only sparse international news coverage, but the tiny West African country of just under 2 million people has had a tumultuous few years. A bizarre, failed coup in 2014 caused chaos in the ultra-repressive state and led to violent crackdowns, and thousands decided to flee the country to Europe amid the refugee crisis.
Now, in the past month, Gambia has seen a small but unprecedented wave of protests against President Yahya Jammeh. The nation’s leader since taking power in a 1994 coup, Jammeh governs as a harsh authoritarian who has pledged to slit the throats of gay men, claimed he can cure AIDS and vowed to rule for a billion years.
Jammeh’s control over Gambia has involved the use of security forces — as well as brutal paramilitary groups — to quell any form of dissent, often through disappearances and torture. Despite this culture of fear and repression, protesters have been publicly demonstrating since mid-April for voting reform and release of prisoners.
“Going on a month now is the longest, most sustained and certainly largest act of public defiance against Jammeh since he came to power,” Jeffrey Smith, executive director of advocacy group Vanguard Africa, told The World Post. “They’re facing off in the streets with one of the continent’s most ruthless and brazenly callous regimes.”