Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has slammed UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International for demanding an investigation into the death in custody of an opposition activist, the Jeune Afrique weekly reported Sunday.
“Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International can go to hell! Who are they to demand that?” said Jammeh, who has ruled Gambia with a rod of iron since 1994.
Solo Sandeng, a senior figure in Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), died in custody in April after being arrested for participating in a rare demonstration calling for Jammeh’s removal, according to his party and Amnesty International.
At the time, a government minister said he was unaware of his death.
But Jammeh struck a defiant note.
“I don’t see the point. People die in custody or during interrogations, it’s really common. This time, there is only one dead and they want investigations? I will not,” said the outspoken leader.
“No one can tell me what to do in my country.”
Speaking to Jeune Afrique, which provided AFP with the original English quotes, the 51-year-old said he was “proud” to be labelled as a “dictator” by western powers whom he claimed were used to African heads of state being ‘yes men’.
If he were a dictator, he was a benign one.
“I am just a dictator of development,” he said.
“When I took power, this country was one of the poorest countries in the world. This is no longer the case. There is an opposition, an elected parliament, we have one of the best public health systems,” Jammeh insisted.
– ‘As long as God wants’ –
He also rhetorically questioned the value of double-digit growth if that left schools empty because of children being forced to work.
Jammeh, who said he would remain president “as long as God and the people wish”, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and was then elected in 1996. Since then, he has been repeatedly reelected for five-years terms and will stand again in presidential polls slated for December.
But Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty blasted Jammeh’s “murderous” regime and slammed neighbouring states for not speaking out against it and against the human rights abuses in Gambia.
“In Gambia, things are going from bad to worse. Journalists and civil society are under attack,” Shetty told a rights conference in Senegal where he claimed the results of the upcoming presidential poll were “known in advance”.
Shetty urged Senegalese President Macky Sall and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which Sall currently chairs, to speak out and “take their responsibilities” in doing so. Not to do so would be “shameful,” he added.