The Gambia Hub

LGBT Members Of Congress Object To Trade Agreement With Anti-Gay Brunei And Malaysia


Five out gay members of Congress have written to President Obama to ask why Malaysia and Brunei - two countries with severe anti-gay laws - have been included in a free trade pact which the administration is currently negotiating and seeking to fast-track, reports Buzzfeed News.

Ddcda4647e4d3900da0f2b57c8fd68bd_400x400Sent yesterday, the letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan, David Cicilline (above left), Sean Patrick Maloney (above middle), Kyrsten Sinema (above right) and Mark Takano, five of the six co-chairs of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which also includes several other nations in Asia and Latin America, became a serious concern for gay rights groups last year after the sultan of Brunei imposed a version of sharia law that included a punishment of death by stoning for homosexuality. Some states in Malaysia also have criminal sharia codes, and the government is appealing a court ruling striking down a law that criminalizes transgender people.

The five representatives argue in the letter that although Obama’s administration announced in December that it would remove the Gambia from a trade pact for African nations because of a crackdown on gay rights, negotiations continue with Brunei and Malaysia.

The letter reads in part:

“In light of the decision to end trade preferences for Gambia, we write today to ask for clarification on the inclusion of Brunei and Malaysia in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

“These two countries are responsible for severe human rights abuses, including adopting penal codes permitting the imprisonment and physical harm of LGBT people. It seems inconsistent for the United States to expand trade privileges to these two countries while taking action against Gambia.”

Jared Polis, the sixth Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus co-chair, is the only out member of Congress who did not sign the letter.

Gambian Man Arrested For Being Gay Fears Death After Being Tortured While In Police Custody: VIDEO


One of the three men arrested on suspicion of homosexuality in The Gambia back in December has been admitted to a hospital due to "excessive bleeding" and reportedly fears for his life.

Freedom Newspaper, a Gambian online news site, claims the individual in question is Alieu Sarr. According to the Newspaper, Sarr's situation is dire: "'Mr. Sarr has been crying on his hospital bed saying that he is going to die. He was tortured while under state custody. He appeared weak and pale,' said our source."

Human rights activist Jeffrey Smith and Gambian journalist Fatu Camara broke the news of the man's arrest and torture on Twitter. Camara noted that the man had been moved to a "private block" and authorities "stuck cotton in his nose" due to the excessive bleeding. According to Smith, the man was also being guarded by armed security.

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d0afe646970c-800wiSmith suggested that notoriously anti-gay President Yahya Jammeh was using this "crackdown" on homosexuals to deflect attention away from a December coup that sought to oust him so as to boost his popularity. 

Camara spoke to BuzzFeed News detailing the atrocities suffered by Sarr and other individuals the Gambian states views as dissidents:

Camara, who was accused of treason by Jammeh and witnessed torture of others while in custody, said the regime had a history of transferring prisoners to the hospital’s private blocs before they are murdered. In a 2011 case, she said, a former political ally of Jammeh’s named Baba Jobe was strangled in Room 10 of the private bloc while in the custody of armed guards.

“There are many other stories of people who they take to the hospital and then they would die,” said Camara. She also had been in contact with another person who confirmed the account of Sarr’s condition given by the witness who spoke to BuzzFeed News.

The witness said Sarr’s room is guarded by two armed soldiers. A nurse told the witness that Sarr has not seen a doctor, which Camara said is consistent with the treatment of other prisoners who have been brought to the hospital. Treatment is withheld until “instructions” are received from the regime, she said.

Though the United States dropped The Gambia from a popular trade agreement over its persecution of LGBT individuals, the Human Rights Campaign has called upon the Obama administration to take more strident actions against the West African nation, as Pink News points out:

“The United States cannot turn a blind eye to the horrific human rights abuses being inflicted on Gambians by President Yahya Jammeh’s regime,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global.  “As we speak, the lives of LGBT Gambians who have been arrested and secretly detained are at risk, and there are no indications that Jammeh’s brutal crackdown on LGBT people and others is slowing down.

The Gambian government paraded the men it arrested for being on national television in December.

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Gambian Man Arrested For Being Gay Fears Death After Being Tortured While In Police Custody: VIDEO" »

Military Coup Fails To Overthrow Anti-Gay Gambian Government

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An early morning hostile attempt at seizing power from Gambian president Yahya Jammeh has been foiled, according to Agence France Presse. The unsuccessful military coup was led by a handful of members of Jammeh’s own personal guard who stormed the presidential palace around 0300 GMT.

At the time Jammeh was traveling abroad in Europe. Eye witnesses and army officials have confirmed accounts, saying that the insurgents were driven back by military gunfire.

Small outbursts of unrest have broken out in parts of Banjul, the country’s capital. In response to the fighting Gambian military officials have begun urging some civilians to remain in their homes and not go to work for the time being. Gambia’s borders with neighboring Senegal also appear to have been temporarily closed.

Jammeh made a name for himself after wresting control of Gambia’s government through a similar military coup in 1994. One of the most prominent features of Jammeh’s dictatorship-cum-presidency has been his staunch position to homosexuality.

Despite protestations from multiple Western nations that provide substantial international aid to Gambia, Jammeh has repeatedly reaffirmed his intentions of showing no mercy to Gambia’s LGBT population.

U.S. Drops The Gambia From Popular Trade Agreement Over Increasing Unjust Treatment Of LGBT People

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On Tuesday the U.S. dropped The Gambia from a popular free trade agreement, the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000, in response to the country's crackdown on LGBT rights and other human rights concerns reports BuzzFeedThe decision comes after The Gambia announced that three men would be put on trial for homosexuality; the three men are the first to face trial since police began arresting people on allegations of homosexuality in November. Currently 16 others are held in detention, leaving Gambian human rights activists unsure if the captives are even still alive. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House, emailed BuzzFeed regarding the situation.

Said Price:

"The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process.

"In addition, in October, Gambian President Jammeh signed into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, including life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ Reports have surfaced of arrests, detention, and torture of individuals because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."

Gambian human rights activists secured meetings with high-ranking U.S. officials after several unsuccessful years trying to get the State Department to respond to the terrible human rights record of President Yahya Jammeh. With the help of the Human Rights Campaign, activists believe the Obama administration is finally regarding them as a force in influencing U.S. foreign policy.

The meeting earlier this month that was held with Gambian human rights activists and White House officials was the first time they met with someone from the State Department regarding Jammeh's human rights record. Under the AGOA trade agreement, The Gambia was exporting an estimated $37 million in goods to the U.S. each year, duty-free. The U.S. essentially expelled The Gambia from the special trade status. This marks the first significant time the U.S. revoked trade status with an African nation, except when a government was overthrown in a coup according to statements from Jeffrey Smith, the advocacy officer with the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Sudan was also dropped from the agreement for refusing to move toward peaceful solutions however, the country does not have any significant trade between itself and the U.S. 

At Least 3 Arrested On Suspicion Of Homosexuality In The Gambia


The West African nation The Gambia has begun rounding up and arresting individuals suspected of being gay, BuzzFeed reports.

Gambian media outlet the Daily Observer reports that at least three individuals have already been arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. You'll recall that The Gambia criminalized "aggravated homosexuality" earlier this year with punishment up to life in prison. The Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh has become infamous for his virulently homophobic remarks, calling gays "vermin" than need to be killed like malaria-infected mosquitoes and threatening to kill any LGBT Gambians seeks asylum in the West. 

A member of The Gambia's National Intelligence Agency (NIA) spoke with the Daily Observer about the arrests, providing a statement rich in homophobic bile:

“We arrested some and others are beyond the territory, but that would not stop us from operations. During the investigations, suspects confessed that they were truly engaged in the act of homosexuality. 

They further revealed that most them started homosexual act between the ages of nine and ten. The investigation also revealed that the suspects were introduced to the homosexual act by friends, most of whom are non-Gambians. The suspects said they depended on them for financial support. The suspects were engaged in the activities to the point where they became addicted and could no longer stop”.

The intelligence officer, who affirmed that the practice is against the law, added: “The suspects continued on with the activity and along the line they met other people who they associated with to engage in the activity”. 

The officer called on the general public to be vigilant and discourage activities he described as “inhuman, un-Gambian and condemned by all religions”. 

“Landlords, bar, restaurants, and hotels owners, amongst others, should also take responsibility to monitor extra activities that happen in their environment. The act is illegal and we will leave no stone unturned to ensuring that it is not practiced in The Gambia. Whoever is caught will face prosecution,” the officer concluded.

GambiaMeanwhile, BuzzFeed reports that the number of individuals arrested since November on suspicion of homosexuality in The Gambia could be as high as 13. BuzzFeed also reports that The Gambia may be ratcheting up its anti-gay rhetoric in an attempt to woo allies in and aid from the Middle East, with particular attention being paid to Qatar and its leader Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani:  

Last fall, Jammeh pulled the Gambia out of the Commonwealth of former British colonies. That was just days after declaring at the United Nations in New York, “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…. Homosexuality in all its forms and manifestations which, though very evil, antihuman as well as anti-Allah, is being promoted as a human right by some powers.”

In September, just after a months-long confrontation between Uganda and donor nations over a sweeping anti-LGBT law enacted in February was brought to an end when Uganda’s Constitutional Court nullified it on procedural grounds, Jammeh’s government passed a law imposing a lifetime prison sentence for “aggravated homosexuality” that appeared to be closely modeled on some of the Ugandan law’s most controversial provisions.

Fatou Camara, who briefly served as Jammeh’s communications director and hosted a Gambian television program before she was charged with sedition and fled to the United States, noted that the current wave of arrests took place just before Jammeh made a state visit to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. While there, he signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar’s leader, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Camara said that she spoke with sources who accompanied Jammeh on the visit, and that they told her he was using this issue to make the case for Qatari support. “This is one point he used to talk to the emir: ‘I cannot get along with the West because they want [me] to promote homosexuality,’” she said.

Thousands Take Part In Gambian Anti-Gay March - VIDEO


Thousands of people took part in an anti-gay protest in The Gambia last Tuesday.

GambiaDemonstrators were joined by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who earlier this year signed a new law imposing life imprisonment for homosexual acts. Last month, the Gambian government said it would never allow the acceptance of gay rights to be a precondition for accepting Western aid.

According to the report on AllAfrica, protesters denounced “attempts by outside forces - development partners - who advocate for homosexuality and lesbianism; vices forbidden by the laws of The Gambia.”

Those demonstrating are said to have carried placards with messages including "Homosexuality is Inhuman", "Even cows don't do it!" and "Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam".

The cow argument is not new: Uganda's First Lady Janet Museveni said earlier this year that humans shouldn't be homosexual because cows arent. .  Of course, cows can be gay as can many other animals.

A petition read by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government Saihou Sanyang read in part:

"Your Excellency Mr. President, it goes without saying that our intolerance with the unnatural and abominable malpractices of homosexuality and lesbianism on the one hand, and the other, our government's position are not negotiable.

It is on the basis of such religious, social, moral and ethical upbringing built on high moral grounds that we stand by our government's position to zero tolerance to either homosexuality or lesbianism or both. There shall not be any turning point and that the people are ready for eventuals in good defence of the people and country's independence".

One protester brought up the animal issue again, saying "The Gambia is a decent country of decent people. Man to man marriage or woman to woman marriage will not be accepted because it is not acceptable by our tradition and cultures. Even animals know that it is not decent".

Watch The Young Turks discuss Jammeh's threat to catch and kill Gambians seeking asylum from persecution, AFTER THE JUMP...

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