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Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh
President of the Gambia
Assumed office
22 July 1994
Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy
Preceded by Sir Dawda Jawara
Personal details
Born Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh
(1965-05-25) 25 May 1965
Kanilai, Gambia
Political party Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction
Spouse(s) Zeinab Suma
Alima Sallah (possibly divorced)[1][2]
Children Mariam
Alma mater Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance  Gambia
Service/branch Gambian National Army
Years of service 1984–1996
Rank Colonel

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh (born 25 May 1965)[3] is the president of the Gambia. As a young army officer, he took power in a 1994 military coup.

He was elected as President in 1996; he was re-elected in 2001, 2006, and 2011.


  • Biography 1
    • Rise to power 1.1
    • Elections 1.2
  • Peacekeeping 2
    • Senegal peace talks 2.1
  • Jammeh Foundation for Peace 3
  • Charitable giving 4
  • Views 5
    • Homosexuality 5.1
    • Claims of medical treatments and cures 5.2
    • Historical claims 5.3
    • Religion 5.4
  • Criticism 6
    • Restrictions to press freedom 6.1
    • Alleged human rights abuses 6.2
      • Shooting of students 6.2.1
      • Disappearances and imprisonments 6.2.2
      • Witch hunting campaign 6.2.3
      • Massacre of migrants 6.2.4
    • Death penalty 6.3
    • Calls for anti-gay violence 6.4
  • Personal life 7
  • Titles and styles 8
  • Awards and honors 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


President Jammeh joined the Gambian National Army in 1984, was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1989, and in 1992 became commander of the Gambian Military Police.[4] He received extensive military training in neighboring Senegal and at United States Army School of the Americas.

Rise to power

On 22 July 1994, a group of young officers in the Gambian National Army seized power from President Sir Dawda Jawara in a military coup by taking control of key facilities in the capital city, Banjul.[5] The coup took place without bloodshed and met with very little resistance.[5] The group identified itself as the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), with the 29-year-old Jammeh as its chairman.[5]

The AFPRC then suspended the constitution, sealed the borders, and implemented a curfew. While Jammeh's new government justified the coup by decrying corruption and lack of democracy under the Jawara regime, army personnel had also been dissatisfied with their salaries, living conditions, and prospects for promotion.[5]


Jammeh founded the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction as his political party. He was elected as president in September 1996.[6] Foreign observers did not deem these elections free and fair.[6] He was re-elected on 18 October 2001 with about 53% of the vote; this election was generally deemed free and fair by observers,[7] despite some very serious shortcomings ranging from overt government intimidation of voters to technical innovations (such as raising the required deposit to stand for election by a factor of 25) to distort the process in favour of the incumbent regime.[8]

A coup attempt against Jammeh was reported to have been thwarted on 21 March 2006; Jammeh, who was in Mauritania at the time, quickly returned home. Army chief of staff Col. Ndure Cham, the alleged leader of the plot,[9] reportedly fled to neighboring Senegal, while other alleged conspirators were arrested[10] and were put on trial for treason.[11] In April 2007, ten former officers accused of involvement were convicted and given prison sentences; four of them were sentenced to life in prison.[12]

Jammeh ran for a third term in the presidential election held on 22 September 2006; the election was initially planned for October but was moved forward because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. He was re-elected with 67.3% of the vote and was declared the winner of the election; the opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe finished second, as in 2001.[13]

In November 2011, Jammeh was again re-elected as president for a fourth term in office, reportedly having received 72% of the popular vote.


Senegal peace talks

According to The Daily Observer, on 10 December 2012, Jammeh secured the release of Senegalese soldiers who had been held as hostages by rebels in Senegal.[14] He sent a delegation to meet with Senegalese President Mackey Sall in early December 2012. The delegation’s goal was to discuss a resolution to the ongoing civil unrest in Senegal’s southern region of Cassamance.[15] Members of the delegation included the Minister of Presidential Affairs, the U.S. Ambassador to the Gambia, and members from the Red Cross and Red Crescent.[15]

Jammeh Foundation for Peace

The Jammeh Foundation for Peace (JFP) was created by Jammeh to help eradicate poverty among Gambians, improve agricultural production, and sponsor educational opportunities for needy students. The foundation has a hospital that is sponsored by the president and provides medical services to the general public.[16]

Charitable giving

Donations in 2012 included $2,563,138 to the National Youths Conference and Festival (NAYCONF),[17] and "two truckloads of turkey" to the Gambia Christian Council for delivery to the Christian community. Jammeh also bankrolled the university of education for less privilege Gambians and non Gambians alike both home and abroad.[18]


Yahya Jammeh.


On 15 May 2008, Jammeh announced that his government would introduce legislation that would set laws against homosexuals that would be "stricter than those in Iran", and that he would "cut off the head" of any gay or lesbian person discovered in the country.[19] News reports indicated his government intended to execute all homosexuals in the country.[19] In the speech given in Tallinding, Jammeh gave a "final ultimatum" to any gays or lesbians in the Gambia to leave the country.[19]

In a speech to the United Nations on 27 September 2013, Jammeh said that "[h]omosexuality in all its forms and manifestations which, though very evil, antihuman as well as anti-Allah, is being promoted as a human right by some powers," and that those who do so "want to put an end to human existence."[20]

On 18 February 2014, Jammeh called homosexuals "vermins" by saying that "We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively,". He also went on to disparage the LGBT by saying that "As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhoea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence".[21][22]

Claims of medical treatments and cures

In January 2007, Jammeh claimed he could cure HIV/AIDS and asthma with natural herbs.[23][24] His claimed treatment program includes instructing patients to cease taking their anti-retroviral drugs.[25][26] His claims have been criticized for promoting unscientific treatment that could have dangerous results, due to the belief that those discharged from his program cannot infect others.[23][24] In December 2011, he restated during an interview that the alleged cure for HIV/AIDS was "going very well".[27]

Fadzai Gwaradzimba, the country representative of the United Nations Development Programme in the Gambia, was told to leave the country after she expressed doubts about the claims and said the remedy might encourage risky behaviour.[28] In August 2007, Jammeh claimed to have developed a single dose herbal infusion that could treat high blood pressure.[29] Jammeh has also claimed to develop a treatment for infertility in women as part of what is called the President's Alternative Treatment Program (PATP).[30][31][32]

Historical claims

According to the Daily Observer newspaper, Jammeh claimed on 26 July 2010, that Gambia had played an important role in the aviation industry, specifically, "that the first Atlantic flight and the first flight from Eastern Europe landed in the Gambia."[33] At the same time Jammeh also stated that "this country is one of the oldest and biggest countries in Africa that was reduced to a small snake by the British government who sold all our lands to the French."[33]

In 1996, Jammeh institutionalized The International Roots Festival. Since then, the festival has attracted hundreds of Africans from the Diaspora to the Gambia to reconnect with their African Ancestry and to immerse themselves in the culture of Africa and to come back to their roots.[34] In 2011, Jammeh renamed James Island to Kunta Kinte Island at the request of American Artist Chaz Guest.


President Jammeh, like the majority of Gambians,[3] is a practising Muslim.[35]

In July 2010, Jammeh stressed that people should believe in God: "If you don't believe in God, you can never be grateful to humanity and you are even below a pig."[36]

In 2011 he told the BBC, "I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so."[37]


An electoral sign supporting Yahya Jammeh.

Restrictions to press freedom

Jammeh has been accused of restricting freedom of the press. Harsh new press laws were followed by the unsolved killing of Deyda Hydara, editor of The Point tabloid. Hydara, who had been mildly critical of the Jammeh regime, was brutally gunned down in December 2004.[38]

Alhagie Martin, one of Jammeh’s closest military aides, has been named in connection with Hydara's killing. It has, however, not been possible to verify the allegation linking Martin with Hydara's slaying. It is widely believed that Jammeh is responsible for Hydara's murder.[38] Jammeh has denied that security agents were involved in the killing.[39]

In April 2004 he called on journalists to obey his government "or go to hell". In June 2005 he stated on radio and television that he has allowed "too much expression" in the country.[40]

In July 2006, journalist Ebrima Manneh of The Daily Observer was reportedly arrested by state security after attempting to republish a BBC report criticizing Jammeh shortly before an African Union meeting in Banjul; his arrest was witnessed by coworkers.[41] Though ordered to release Manneh by an Economic Community of West African States court, the Gambian government denied that Manneh was imprisoned.[42]

According to AFP, an unnamed police source confirmed Manneh's arrest in April 2009, but added he believed Manneh "is no longer alive".[42] Amnesty International named Manneh a prisoner of conscience and a 2011 "priority case".[43] The Committee to Protect Journalists has also called for his release.[41]

Alleged human rights abuses

Shooting of students

On 10 and 11 April 2000, the government was accused of the killing of 12 students and a journalist during a student demonstration to protest the death of a student in the Gambia. Jammeh was accused of ordering the shooting of the students, but the government denied the allegations. A government commission of inquiry reportedly concluded that the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers were "largely responsible" for many of the deaths and other injuries.[44]

The commission also said that five soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Battalion were responsible for the deaths of two students at Brikama. The government stated that the report implicated several PIU officers in the students' deaths and injuries, but those responsible were not prosecuted.[44]

Disappearances and imprisonments

Newspaper reports list dozens of individuals who have disappeared after being picked up by men in plain-clothes, and others who have languished under indefinite detention for months or years without charge or trial.[45] The regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ordered the Gambia government to produce one journalist who was disappeared.[46][47][48]

Witch hunting campaign

In March 2009 Amnesty International reported that up to 1,000 Gambians had been abducted by government-sponsored "witch doctors" on charges of witchcraft, and taken to detention centers where they were forced to drink poisonous concoctions.[49] On 21 May 2009, The New York Times reported that the alleged witch-hunting campaign had been sparked by the President Yahya Jammeh, who believed that the death of his aunt earlier that year could be attributed to witchcraft.[50]

Massacre of migrants

Jammeh has also been linked with the 2004 massacre of 44 Ghanaian migrants and 10 other ECOWAS nationals.[51][52][53]

Death penalty

Though previously regarded by Amnesty International as "abolitionist in practice", having had no executions since 1985,[54] on 27 August 2012, the Gambian government confirmed that nine prisoners were executed by firing squad.[55] This followed President Jammeh's stated intention to carry out all death penalties before mid-September amid protests from the European Union countries and others.[56]

Calls for anti-gay violence

In May 2015, in defiance of western criticism Jammeh intensified his anti-gay rhetoric, telling a crowd during an agricultural tour: "If you do it [in the Gambia] I will slit your throat — if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it."[57]

This prompted a fresh round of condemnation from international human rights leaders. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a statement of condemnation on 16 May 2015: "We condemn his comments, and note these threats come amid an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia," said Rice. "We are deeply concerned about credible reports of torture, suspicious disappearances – including of two American citizens – and arbitrary detention at the government’s hands."[58]

Personal life

Colonel Yahya Jammeh and Mrs. Zineb Jammeh with Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House, August 2014.

Jammeh's first marriage ended in divorce.[59] Jammeh married his second wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh, in 1999.[59] They have two children as of 2007, a daughter, Mariam Jammeh, and a son, Muhammed Yahya Jammeh. The latter was born in late 2007, when his daughter was eight years old.[60]

Both of his children were born in Washington, D. C., and U.S. citizenship recognition was requested for the first child – but her request was denied (because, as a child of a foreign person holding diplomatic exemption status, she was not considered subject to the jurisdiction of the United States when born, as is required for birthright citizenship in the United States).[61]

On 30 September 2010, Jammeh announced his marriage to a 21-year-old (or possibly 18-year-old[1]) additional wife by the name Alima Sallah, daughter of Omar Gibril Sallah, Gambia's current Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Zahra Sallah.[59][62] It was announced that his new wife would officially be referred to as Lady Alima Yahya Jammeh, and would not be referred to as a "first lady", since Zeinab Suma Jammeh is the official "first lady".[62]

According to at least one source, his marriage to Ms. Sallah was a shock to his other wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh, and the additional marriage led to strains in their relationship and even plans for their divorce.[63] Zeinab Jammeh had reportedly already been living in the U.S. separately from her husband for some time.[63] Ms. Sallah reportedly also left Gambia for the U.S. in June 2010.[63] According to the same publication, he then divorced Ms. Sallah in early 2011.[1][2]

Titles and styles

The official title used is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Awal Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen Babili Mansa.[64] He is Commander In Chief of The Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of the Gambia.[65]

On 16 June 2015, a statement from the State House stated that President Jammeh should be addressed as "His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh Babili Mansa".[66] The title Babili Mansa, which the President decided to drop in December 2014, is a phrase in the Mandinka language that could be translated as either "Chief Bridge Builder" or "Conqueror of Rivers".[67][68] Two months before, he had already removed the title "Nasirul Deen", which had been conferred to him by the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council.[69]

Awards and honors

Jammeh has received Honorary Doctorates from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 2004,[70][71] Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, Norman Academy,[72] and National Taipei University of Technology.[73]

He has received awards through the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, including a peace award,[74] the honorary title of Kentucky colonel[75] and the tongue-in-cheek award of Nebraska Admiral[76][77][78][79] Jennifer Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for the Governor of Nebraska, acknowledged that Jammeh was granted an admiralship in the Nebraska Navy,[80] but later stated "We regret that this individual has attempted to embellish a certificate for a Nebraska admiralship, claiming that it was a high honor bestowed upon him by the governor, when to the best of our knowledge, this person has no relationship with or ties to Nebraska. "[81]


  1. ^ a b c Breaking News: Gambia – Jammeh Divorces First Lady Alima Sallah, Freedom Now Newspaper online, 26 April 2011.
  2. ^ a b Breaking News: Gambia – First Lady Jammeh to Visit us Next Week, Freedom Now Newspaper online, 18 June 2011. HE reportedly tied the knot with a 22-year-old charming Ghanaian lady in Kumasi last weekend. Mrs. Nora Jammeh, formerly called Munira Yahaya, a graduate of Sunyani Polytechnic, was engaged to the Gambian president two weeks ago in the Gambia, which was followed by the secret wedding at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kumasi in 2012.
  3. ^ a b Country Profiles: Sub-Saharan Africa: Gambia, U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 18 July 2011 .
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c d Wiseman, John A., Africa South of the Sahara 2004 (33rd edition): The Gambia: Recent History, Europa Publications Ltd., 2004, page 456.
  6. ^ a b Background Note: The Gambia, U.S. Department of State, 22 April 2011.
  7. ^ Country Report on Human Rights Practices for The Gambia, U.S. Department of State, 4 March 2002.
  8. ^ "Democratization in Africa" by Diamond and Plattner (ed), Johns Hopkins University Press (1999), pages 216–227 [1]
  9. ^ "Attempted coup averted, government says", IRIN, 22 March 2006.
  10. ^ "Arrests over Gambia 'coup plot'", BBC News, 28 March 2006.
  11. ^ "Suspected Gambian coupists before court martial", Afrol News, 6 October 2006.
  12. ^ "Gambia jails army coup plotters", Reuters (IOL), 20 April 2007.
  13. ^ "Gambian president is re-elected", BBC News, 23 September 2006.
  14. ^ "Gambia Secures Release of Eight Senegalese Soldiers From MFDC", The Daily Observer (Banjul), 10 December 2012
  15. ^ a b "Gambia to Discuss with Senegal Over Cassamance Conflict," Xinhua, 10 December 2012
  16. ^ "Gambia; All Set for JFP Dinner", The Daily Observer (Banjul), 7 December 2012
  17. ^ "Gambia; NAYCONF Gets D2.5 Million Presidential Contribution", The Daily Observer (Banjul), 6 December 2012
  18. ^ "Gambia; President Jammeh Largesse to Christian Community", The Daily Observer, 24 December 2012
  19. ^ a b c President Jammeh Gives Ultimatum for Homosexuals to Leave, Gambia News, 19 May 2008.
  20. ^ Gambian president says gays a threat to human existence-20130928, Reuters, 28 Sept 2013.
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b "President's 'HIV cure' condemned", BBC News, 2 February 2007.
  24. ^ a b President Jammeh discharges 41 HIV/AIDS treated patients, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 12 July 2010.
  25. ^ Gambian president's claim of AIDS cure causes alarm, USA Today, 20 February 2007.
  26. ^ Dibba, L. M., Jammeh starts curing HIV/AIDS patients today, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 18 January 2007.
  27. ^ "Gambia President Yahya Jammeh: Critics 'can go to hell'", BBC News, 12 December 2011
  28. ^ "Country profile: The Gambia", BBC News, 4 March 2008.
  29. ^ Gambia television, 20 August 2007.
  30. ^ Gambia President Yahya Jammeh Continues 'Fertility Treatment', Actualité Afrique, 1 October 2011.
  31. ^ More Barren Women Seek President Jammeh's Treatment, All Africa Global Media, 2 October 2011.
  32. ^ Fadera, H., President Jammeh Discharges Ninth Batch of Infertility Patients, The Daily Observer (Banjul) – All Africa Global Media, 17 October 2011.
  33. ^ a b British Govt is Supporting Opposition Parties, Daily Observer, 28 July 2010.
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Ndow, M., and Fadera, H., Democracy of Exploitation Will Never Happen in This Country, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 26 July 2010.
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b "Thousands protest peacefully at murder of journalist", IRIN, 22 December 2004.
  39. ^ Gambian opposition claims fraud, BBC News, 25 September 2006.
  40. ^ Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, Reporters Without Borders.
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^ a b
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: The Gambia, U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 23 February 2001.
  45. ^ Ceesay, F. B., Disappearance Without Trace or Detention Without Trial, FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda), 5 July 2010.
  46. ^
  47. ^ AIUK: Search actions: Gambia: Release journalist Ebrima B. Manneh
  48. ^ [2]
  49. ^
  50. ^ "Witch-Hunt in Gambia"
  51. ^ Yahaya Jammeh ordered massacre of 44 Ghanaians at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 September 2007)
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^ a b c President Jammeh Marries Second Wife, Daily Observer, 4 October 2010.
  60. ^ Christening of Baby Muhammed Yahya Jammeh, Office of the Gambian President website, 31 December 2007.
  61. ^ Jambang, Y., First Lady Zaineb Jammeh gives birth in Washington, D. C., Senegambia News, 27 November 2007.
  62. ^ a b Gambian president takes 21 year old Alima Sallah as second wife, Gambia News, 3 October 2010.
  63. ^ a b c M'Bai, P. N., Breaking News: Gambia: Second First Lady Alima Sallah Arrives in U. S. – Amidst Mounting Tensions in Kanilai Freedom Newspaper, 28 June 2010.
  64. ^ pdf
  65. ^ Republic of The Gambia State House Online: Office of the President, Republic of the Gambia government website.
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^ Message from the President: St. Mary’s College’s PEACE Program, June 24, 2015 By Arminta Plater
  71. ^ Gambia: St Mary's College Students Observe U. S. Independence Day
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^ President Jammeh receives Kentucky Colonel award, Republic of the Gambia State House web site.
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^
  79. ^
  80. ^ aspx
  81. ^ php

Further reading

External links

  • Jammeh to Hizbullah TV: We Support Iran's Nuclear Program; All Countries Are Entitled to Obtain Nuclear Weapons Until These Are Abolished
  • Official website
Political offices
Preceded by
Dawda Jawara
President of the Gambia
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