- (Photo: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine)
Gambia's president, apparently responding to demands from the U.K. and U.S. for acceptance of gay and lesbian rights, has stated that no amount of foreign-aid "bribing" was going to lead him to "insult God by doing something in the name of human rights."
"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 long as I am the President of The Gambia, you will never see that happen in this country," His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Jammeh declared at the 2012 State Opening of the National Assembly on Friday.
The comments come only weeks after 19 people including Gambians, a Senegalese and a Nigerian were arrested in Gambia on suspicion of homosexual acts, and charged with two counts of attempts to commit unnatural offense and conspiracy to commit felony.
Homosexuality is illegal not only in Gambia, a largely Muslim nation, but a host of other countries in Africa hold similar laws. The international community in recent years has cracked down on what it sees as the suppression of gay and human rights on the continent.
In 2011, a number of Western countries declared that they would cut foreign aid for nations that did not improve their records on gay rights. In October of 2011, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that he would cut foreign Aid to Malawi by $30.6 million after it sentenced two gay men to 14 years of hard labor. He also threatened to reduce aid to Uganda, Ghana, and other nations that supported the traditional definition of marriage, The Daily Mail reported.
In a memorandum issued by President Barack Obama in Geneva, Switzerland last December, the U.S. administration declared that it will combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct, or abuse homosexual or transgendered people, The New York Times reported.
"Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct, but in fact they are one and the same," said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Clinton at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
While presiding over the National Assembly, however, the Gambia president clarified in his statement:
"If you want us to be ungodly for you to give us aid, take your aid away, we will survive. We will rather eat grass than accept this ungodly evil attitude that is anti-God, anti-human and anti-creation. What is interesting is that Muslim veils have been banned [in some Western countries], and they want us to accept gays and lesbians in Africa, hell no! It will not happen in this country," the president stated.
"We will not allow anything that is ungodly to take place on this soil. If you are caught and sent to jail, we will make sure that you are separated and put you in one jail where you will not see a man. We will not lock homosexuals in one jail," he continued, The Daily Observer shared.
Gambia's leader reportedly claimed that the country will not mistreat people based on their race or religion, but every nation has its own natural "dos and don'ts," and defending the traditional definition of marriage was one aspect that the African nation would not be comprised on.
"We will preserve our Africaness and our religious belief to the letter and laws will be made to make sure that our cultural values are upheld to the letter. Sometimes you hear a lot of noise about 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," the firm statement declared, and continued:
"You can call me any names, but we will not compromise our dignity, we will not insult our religion, and we will not insult God by doing something in the name of human rights."
According to a state government report, Gambia has no official religion and its citizens are free to practice whichever faith system they choose. Sunni Muslims, however, make up 90 percent of the population.