President Yahya Jammeh

President Yahya Jammeh

Gambia has withdrawn from the Commonwealth after 48 years, with some suggesting that the surprise move could be related to homophobic President Yahya Jammeh’s campaign against LGBT people.

The news was announced by state media last week. The government gave little information for its reasons but stated that Gambia will “never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism”.

Commentators believe that Jammeh could have made the decision after he was widely slated around the world for his anti-gay speech at the United Nations last month.

Speaking in New York, Jammeh – who has been president of Gambia since 1996 – said that homosexuality was among the biggest threats facing the world and was “more deadly than all natural disasters put together”.

It’s also been reported that the Gambian government has come under increasing pressure from the Commonwealth to take measures to improve its human rights policies

A source told Sky News: “There will be some relief that President Yahya Jammeh has removed himself as the country’s human rights record was getting worse and worse.”

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

The Commonwealth is an association of 54 nations, most of which are former British colonies. In 2012, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma spoke out against the “discrimination or stigmatisation” of gays and lesbians in a speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Despite this, most Commonwealth countries continue to retain colonial-era laws that criminalise homosexuality.

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