Gambian President Yahya Jammeh said in a televised address Feb 18 that gay people should be eradicated, Reuters reports. “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,” he said in a speech commemorating the nation’s 49th year of independence from Britain.
Homosexual activity is illegal in the tiny, predominantly Muslim country. Despite pressure from aid donors, Jammeh said that the law would not change.
“We will therefore not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT, as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them,” he said. “As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for leprosy, gonorrhea, bacteria and tuberculosis, all of which are detrimental to human existence.”
Jammeh’s administration, which took office in a bloodless coup in 1994, relies heavily on foreign aid.
Gambia is one of a number of African countries that has been cracking down on gay rights in recent months. On Feb 18, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni dismissed pressure by US President Barack Obama over a new anti-gay law. The law against “aggravated homosexuality” would punish repeated homosexuality or gay sex involving an HIV-infected partner with life in prison. Yoweri announced he would sign the law last week, after months of consideration.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan also signed a law effectively banning gay relationships, meetings and rights groups. Support from the national government led to a string of prosecutions of allegedly gay men in Nigeria’s conservative Muslim north.
A prominent Muslim group in Malawi also recently called for the death penalty for homosexuality, in the midst of a national debate on the issue. Malawian President Joyce Banda initially said she would decriminalize homosexuality but has since backed down.