By Bryan OchallaYahya Jammeh's recent threat to "cut off the head" of any gay person in Gambia isn't that outlandish. Jammeh, a former wrestler who's ruled the mostly Muslim nation since 1994, has a history of making sensational statements--including a declaration last year that he could cure AIDS.
That may partly explain why no nation has condemned or even responded to Jammeh's threats. In contrast, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was admonished by at least 10 nations after he threatened last year to "wipe Israel off the map." A verbal slap on the wrist may be the most the west African leader can expect--European Union member governments are reportedly working on a statement addressing the remark.
In addition to Jammeh's history of outrageous declarations, there may be another reason for the lack of response: the leader's insistence that he was misquoted. Scott Long of Human Rights Watch doubts that's true--several media outlets, including the BBC, reported the incident--but it suggests that Jammeh wants to distance himself from the statements.
But the damage has already been done, Long says. Reports of attacks on gay Gambians followed Jammeh's comments, and Long worries they will continue if the president doesn't completely disavow the statement. "Violence is an obvious consequence of a political leader saying, 'These people should be killed.'" (The Advocate, Aug. 2008)
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