Gambia: Yahya Jammeh’s Ethnic Rhetoric Raises Concerns


Barely a week after Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh threatened ‘to kill Mandinkas like ants’, concerns are rising about a possible tribalization of the country’s politics ahead of December polls.

“I am shocked with the statement made by President Jammeh. Now, it is the Head of State who is trying to bring conflict among the tribes. This is very serious,” Omar Amadou Jallow of the opposition Peoples’ Progressive Party (PPP) told this reporter.

In a statement made last week during a political rally held in Talinding (some 7 km from Banjul), the Gambian leader launched a verbal attack directed against the ethnic Mandinka majority group, describing them as “donkeys” and “vermins”. He went and said: “I will kill you like ants and nothing will come out of it.” This occurs while the country is facing an unprecedented political crisis provoked by the imprisonment of United Democratic Party leader Ousainou Darboe and dozens of party militants.

Omar Amadou Jallow said President Jammeh’s ‘terrible statement does not augur well for the future of the country.’

The PPP leader described Jammeh’s utterance as ‘hate crime’ and called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look into these statements.

“The ICC should look into this and start investigating Jammeh over hate crime,” he said.

Veteran Gambian journalist DA Jawo drew a parallel to the situation that led to the Rwandan  genocide. “That is indeed very scary as this is the type of language that the Rwandan authorities were using against the Tutsis during the run up to the 1994 genocide in which more than a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred, making it the worst genocide ever committed in Africa in living memory,” he recalled.

The tiny West African is ruled by Yahya Jammeh who seized power in a 1994 military coup. Activists accused his regime of gross human violations including continued clampdown on the media, opposition party supporters and journalists. He has vowed to vie for a fifth term.

Written by Abdoulie JOHN

Join The Conversation