Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh
Yahya Jammeh
يحيا جمح
President of the Gambia
Assumed office
22 July 1994
Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy
Preceded by Dawda Jawara
Personal details
Born 25 May 1965 (1965-05-25) (age 46)
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

Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh (Jola: يحيا آبدل-آزٌيز جمس خنكنغ ديلليو جمح; born May 25, 1965; 46 years old) is the President of The Gambia.[3] He took control of the country in a military coup in 1994 and ran in elections later, and he has remained in office continuously since that time.



President Jammeh received a secondary school education in the Gambia, joined the Gambian National Army in 1986, was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1989, and in 1992 became commander of the Gambian Military Police.[citation needed] He received extensive military training in Neighboring Senegal and at United States Army School of the Americas.[citation needed]

Rise to power

On July 22, 1994, a group of young officers in the Gambian National Army seized power from President Dawda Jawara in a military coup by taking control of key facilities in the capital city, Banjul.[4] The coup took place without bloodshed and met with very little resistance.[4] The group identified itself as the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). Jammeh, who was 29 years old at the time, was the chairman of the AFPRC. 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.[4]


Jammeh founded the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction as his political party. He was elected as president in September 1996.[5] Foreign observers did not deem these elections free and fair.[5] He was re-elected on October 18, 2001 with about 53% of the vote; this election was generally deemed free and fair by observers,[6] 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.[7]

A coup attempt against Jammeh was reported to have been thwarted on March 21, 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,[8] reportedly fled to neighboring Senegal, while other alleged conspirators were arrested[9] and were put on trial for treason.[10] In April 2007, ten former officers accused of involvement were convicted and given prison sentences; four of them were sentenced to life in prison.[11]

Jammeh ran for a third term in the presidential election held on September 22, 2006; the election was initially planned for October but was moved forward because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.[citation needed] 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.[12]

Foreign relations

Jammeh traveled to the United States to meet with Prince George's County, Maryland County Executive Jack Johnson in May 2004. While in the Washington, DC metro area, he delivered the commencement address to the St. Mary's College of Maryland graduating class of 2004. In the address he stressed a commitment to education since taking power in The Gambia.

In early December 2006, Jammeh made a three-day visit to Iran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; Ahmadinejad said that Iran would provide aid to assist in the development of The Gambia, and he and Jammeh spoke of deepening ties between the two countries.[13][14]

In December 2007, he traveled to Taiwan with the objective of developing trade relations between the two countries.[citation needed]



On May 15, 2008, Jammeh announced that his government would introduce legislation that would set rules 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.[15] News reports indicated his government intended to have all homosexuals in the country killed.[15] In the speech given in Tallinding, Jammeh gave a "final ultimatum" to any gays or lesbians in The Gambia to leave the country.[15]

Claims of medical treatments and cures

In January 2007, Jammeh claimed he could cure HIV/AIDS and asthma with natural herbs.[16][17] His claimed treatment program includes instructing patients to cease taking their anti-retroviral drugs.[18][19] 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.[16][17]

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.[20]

In August 2007, Jammeh claimed to have developed a single dose herbal infusion that could treat high blood pressure.[21]

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).[22][23][24]

Historical claims

According to the Daily Observer newspaper, Jammeh claimed on July 26, 2010, that the 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."[citation needed] 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." [25]


President Jammeh, like the majority of Gambians,[3] is a practicing Muslim.[citation needed]

In July 2010, Jammeh stressed that people should believe in God, saying that "If you don't believe in God, you can never be grateful to humanity and you are even below a pig."[26]


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. 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.[27] Jammeh has denied that security agents were involved in the killing.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30] Though ordered to release Manneh by an Economic Community Of West African States court, the Gambian government denied that Manneh was imprisoned.[31] According to AFP, an unnamed police source confirmed Manneh's arrest in April 2009, but added he believed Manneh "is no longer alive".[31] Amnesty International named Manneh a prisoner of conscience and a 2011 "priority case".[32] The Committee to Protect Journalists has also called for his release.[30]

Internet web sites spreading rumors of the government are (alleged) blocked, such as the US-based Freedom Tabloid.

Alleged human rights abuses

On April 10 and 11th, 2000, the government was accused in 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. 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.[33]

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.[34] The regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) court ordered the Gambia government to produce one journalist who was disappeared.[35][36][37]

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.[38] On May 21, 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.[39] Jammeh has also been linked with the 2004 massacre of 44 Ghanaian migrants and 10 other ECOWAS nationals.[40][41][42]

Personal life

Jammeh's first marriage ended in divorce.[43] Jammeh married his second wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh, in 1999,[43] and 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.[44] 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).[45]

On September 30, 2010, Jammeh announced his marriage to a 21-year-old (or possibly 18-year-old[1]) additional wife by the name Ms. Alima Sallah, daughter of Mr Omar Gibril Sallah, Gambia's current Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Mrs Zahra Sallah.[43][46] 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".[46]

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.[47] Zeinab Jammeh had reportedly already been living in the U.S. separately from her husband for some time.[47] Ms. Sallah reportedly also left Gambia for the U.S. in June 2010.[47] 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-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen. He is Commander In Chief of The Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of The Gambia.[48]

Awards and honors

In 2008 he received awards for the pursuit of peace from the International Parliament for Safety and Peace (IPSP) in Palermo, Italy.[49] The IPSP also helped arrange for Jammeh to receive the honorary titles of Kentucky colonel[50] and "Admiral" of the (fictitious) Navy of Nebraska.[51][52][53][54] In 2010, he received the honorary degree of Grand Doctor of Philosophy from the private vocational school International University of Fundamental Studies, which claims accreditation from the IPSP,[55] which is an organization that has been suggested to be unqualified to confer such accreditations.


  1. ^ a b c Breaking News: Gambia – Jammeh Divorces First Lady Alima Sallah, Freedom Now Newspaper online, Apr. 26, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Breaking News: Gambia – First Lady Jammeh to Visit us Next Week, Freedom Now Newspaper online, 18 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b Country Profiles: Sub-Saharan Africa: Gambia, U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 18 July 2011 .
  4. ^ a b c Wiseman, John A., Africa South of the Sahara 2004 (33rd edition): The Gambia: Recent History, Europa Publications Ltd., 2004, page 456.
  5. ^ a b Background Note: The Gambia, U.S. Department of State, 22 Apr. 2011.
  6. ^ Country Report on Human Rights Practices for The Gambia, U.S. Department of State, 4 Mar. 2002.
  7. ^ "Democratization in Africa" by Diamond and Plattner (ed), Johns Hopkins University Press (1999), pages 216-227 [1]
  8. ^ "Attempted coup averted, government says", IRIN, 22 Mar. 2006.
  9. ^ "Arrests over Gambia 'coup plot'", BBC News, 28 Mar. 2006.
  10. ^ "Suspected Gambian coupists before court martial", Afrol News, 6 Oct. 2006.
  11. ^ "Gambia jails army coup plotters", Reuters (IOL), 20 Apr. 2007.
  12. ^ "Gambian president is re-elected", BBC News, 23 Sep. 2006.
  13. ^ "Pressure has no impact on Iran-Gambia ties: Ahmadinejad", Islamic Republic News Agency, 4 Dec. 2006.
  14. ^ "Gambia Calls for Expansion of Ties with Iran", Fars News Agency, 4 Dec. 2006.
  15. ^ a b c President Jammeh Gives Ultimatum for Homosexuals to Leave, Gambia News, 19 May 2008.
  16. ^ a b "President's 'HIV cure' condemned", BBC News, 2 Feb. 2007.
  17. ^ a b President Jammeh discharges 41 HIV/AIDS treated patients, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 12 July 2010.
  18. ^ Gambian president's claim of AIDS cure causes alarm, USA Today, 20 Feb. 2007.
  19. ^ Dibba, L. M., Jammeh starts curing HIV/AIDS patients today, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 18 Jan. 2007.
  20. ^ "Country profile: The Gambia", BBC News, 4 Mar. 2008.
  21. ^ Gambia television, 20 Aug. 2007.
  22. ^ Gambia President Yahya Jammeh Continues 'Fertility Treatment', Actualité Afrique, 1 Oct. 2011.
  23. ^ More Barren Women Seek President Jammeh's Treatment, All Africa Global Media, 2 Oct. 2011.
  24. ^ Fadera, H., President Jammeh Discharges Ninth Batch of Infertility Patients, The Daily Observer (Banjul) - All Africa Global Media, 17 Oct. 2011.
  25. ^ British Govt is Supporting Opposition Parties, Daily Observer, 28 July 2010.
  26. ^ Ndow, M., and Fadera, H., Democracy of Exploitation Will Never Happen in This Country, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 26 July 2010.
  27. ^ "Thousands protest peacefully at murder of journalist", IRIN, 22 Dec. 2004.
  28. ^ Gambian opposition claims fraud, BBC News, 25 Sep., 2006.
  29. ^ Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, Reporters Without Borders.
  30. ^ a b "Gambia must account for missing journalist Ebrima Manneh". Committee to Protect Journalists. 14 April 2009. http://www.cpj.org/2009/04/gambia-must-account-for-missing-journalist-ebrima.php. Retrieved 18 Apr. 2011. 
  31. ^ a b "Missing Gambia journalist is dead: police". AFP. 14 Apr. 2009. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5izABjky1HY0Bz47DUuc3V3SaNLGQ. Retrieved 18 Apr. 2011. 
  32. ^ "Ebrima Manneh". Amnesty International. http://www.amnestyusa.org/individuals-at-risk/priority-cases/gambia-ebrima-manneh/page.do?id=1361052. Retrieved 17 Apr. 2011. 
  33. ^ Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: The Gambia, U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 23 Feb. 2001.
  34. ^ Ceesay, F. B., Disappearance Without Trace or Detention Without Trial, FOROYAA Newspaper (Serrekunda), 5 July 2010.
  35. ^ http://www.bloggernews.net/116083
  36. ^ http://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions_details.asp?ActionID=535
  37. ^ http://www.afriquejet.com/news/africa-news/gambia-urged-to-comply-with-ecowas-court-verdict-2010050348704.html
  38. ^ "The Gambia: Hundreds accused of “witchcraft” and poisoned in government campaign"
  39. ^ "Witch-Hunt in Gambia"
  40. ^ http://www.myzongo.com/Yahaya-Jammeh-ordered-massacre-of.html
  41. ^ http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=126449
  42. ^ http://www.afrol.com/articles/26377
  43. ^ a b c President Jammeh Marries Second Wife, Daily Observer, 4 Oct. 2010.
  44. ^ Christening of Baby Muhammed Yahya Jammeh, Office of The Gambian President website, 31 Dec. 2007.
  45. ^ Jambang, Y., First Lady Zaineb Jammeh gives birth in Washington, D.C., Senegambia News, 27 Nov. 2007.
  46. ^ a b Gambian president takes 21 year old Alima Sallah as second wife, Gambia News, Oct. 3, 2010.
  47. ^ 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.
  48. ^ Republic of The Gambia State House Online: Office of the President, Republic of The Gambia government website.
  49. ^ "Gambia: An Exemplary Leader (Editorial)". The Daily Observer. 21 Nov. 2008. http://allafrica.com/stories/200811210939.html. Retrieved 14 Apr. 2009. "President Yahya Jammeh, on Wednesday 19 November 2008, received three awards in honor of his innovative approach to maintaining peace in the West Africa sub-region and the world at large. The International Parliament for Safety and Peace (IPSP) awards are presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the human family. The Gambian leader's commitment to peace cannot be overemphasized, because he has always taken a leadership position on issues pertaining to global perspectives." 
  50. ^ President Jammeh receives Kentucky Colonel award, Republic of the Gambia State House web site.
  51. ^ "Gambia: Jammeh 'Award' Coverage Reflects Chill in Press". allAfrica.com. 27 September 2010. http://allafrica.com/stories/201009271763.html. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  52. ^ Time. 2010-10-01. http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/10/01/when-was-the-gambian-president-the-admiral-of-nebraska/. 
  53. ^ "Welcome to Freedom Newspaper Online". Freedomnewspaper.com. http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Homepage/tabid/36/mid/367/newsid367/5606/Breaking-News-Gambia-Governors-Office-Confirms-Authenticity-Of-Naval-Award-Extended-To-Jammeh/Default.aspx. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  54. ^ "Welcome to Freedom Newspaper Online". Freedomnewspaper.com. http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Homepage/tabid/36/mid/367/newsid367/5644/Breaking-News-Gambia-THE-MAN-BEHIND-JAMMEHS-NEBRASKA--ADMIRAL-ADWARD-SPEAKS/Default.aspx. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  55. ^ International University of Fundamental Studies

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Dawda Jawara
President of the Gambia

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