President Yahya Jammeh

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh – who has been in power since 1996 – has rejected international aid linked to respecting human rights and has raged that there will be no gay rights as long as he rules.

Speaking at the opening of Parliament in Banjul on Friday, he slammed threats by Western donor nations to withhold aid from countries that persecute gays and lesbians.

“If you are to give us aid for men and men or for women and women to marry, leave it. We don’t need your aid because as far as I am the president of the Gambia, you will never see that happen in this country. We do not need your aid money. You can keep it. We will not encourage ungodly vices alien to our culture,” the Freedom Newspaper quoted Jammeh as saying.

He ranted on: “As long as I’m the president of this country, there will be no gay rights. Homosexuality is forbidden in this country. If you are going to deny us aid money because of our opposition to gay rights; then so be it. We will never allow men and men; women and women to date in this country. It will never happen under my watch as President.

“Sometimes you hear of a lot of noise about the laws of this country or my pronouncements; let me make it very clear that, if you want me to offend God for you to give me aid, you are making a great mistake; you will not bribe me to do what is evil and ungodly,” he said.

In 2008, Jammeh gave gays and lesbians 24 hours to leave the country or threatened to have their heads cut off.

Earlier this month, Gambian police arrested 19 men “suspected of homosexuality” at a bar in Banjul. They were arrested in a raid after complaints of people “publicly displaying or promoting homosexual activities”.

Article 144 of The Gambia’s 1965 Criminal Code criminalises homosexual conduct as an “unnatural offence” and provides for a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

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