Gambia is accounting for its past. Two years after the end of Yahya Jammeh’s brutal 23-year rule, the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission is under way. Its objective is to “promote healing and reconciliation” by creating an impartial record of the nature, causes and extent of violations and abuses of human rights committed during Jammeh’s time in office from July 1994 to January 2017.
This objective, however, comes with a caveat. The commission may create an impartial record, but it will be incomplete.
In 2014, Jammeh celebrated the 20th anniversary of his rule by devoting a portion of his remarks to reiterate his opposition to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights. “We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”
There was no outcry in Gambia then. And still few are willing to speak up for the LGBT community.
“That would be a very significant decision given the cultural setting and people’s perception and understanding of LGBT issues,” said Madi Jobarteh, the Gambia country representative for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
Jobarteh’s observation accords with my own, formed after living as a closeted law professor in the country during Jammeh’s rule. Since leaving Gambia, I watched as human rights activists bravely called out the regime’s abuses, while omitting reference to LGBT rights or denouncing Jammeh’s position on the issue. Read more via Mail & Guardian