In this Saturday, Sept. 23, 2006 file photo Gambian President Yahya Jammeh speaks during a press conference following his reelection in Banjul, Gambia. Gambia’s president once claimed to have developed a cure for AIDS that involved an herbal body rub and bananas. His administration rounded up nearly 1,000 people last year in a witch hunt. And now he may soon have a new title in this tiny West African nation: His majesty. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, file)
Well, I guess I can cancel any plans for a dream vacation in Gambia.
If not for longstanding allegations of hostility towards journalists, certainly the raging homophobia spewing from the top of the government totem pole thing would do the trick. According to reports, Gambia’s President, Yahya Jammeh, sent a stern warning to gays and lesbians while speaking before the country’s Parliament in Banjul. Yes, The Freedom newspaper made note that Jammeh confirmed that any chances of him exercising any tolerance towards alternative styles of boo loving are next to nil.
“Homosexuality is anti-humanity. I have never seen homosexual chicken, or turkey. If you are convicted of homosexuality in this country, there will be no mercy for offenders. We will put you in the female wing of the prison.”
Ah, hyper-masculine drivel mixed with a lack of knowledge: the perfect recipe for this flavor of stupidity. Perhaps he’s never heard of Big Bird’s questionable relationship with Mr. Snuffleupagus, reports of over 1500 different species that have engaged in homosexual activity. Or hell, even the shorter, picture-enhanced version of such stories provided by BuzzFeed. Nonetheless, someone should finally bring that to his attention.
Meanwhile, Jammeh went on with his anti-gay rant though, of course:
“We want the population to grow. There will be children in this country. Homosexuality is anti-God, anti-human, and anti-civilization. Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffaloes from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights. We will not allow gays here.”
This is frightening for numerous reasons. It’s also another instance of the rampant homophobia plaguing various nations on the continent of Africa. It’s saddening to see this sort of bigotry perpetuated by people who have themselves have fallen victim to someone’s prejudices. Not surprisingly, the very people who initiated such religious-excused hatred are doing the same old two-step.
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As the Associated Press explained last year about a report highlighting the role U.S. evangelicals have played in promoting homophobia in Africa last year:
It accuses evangelical stars such as Pat Robertson and Rick Warren as well as Catholic and Mormon groups of setting up institutions and campaigns in Africa that are “fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders.”
The report – “Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa” – was presented by the Political Research Associates of Boston, a think tank that describes itself as “progressive” and focusing on what it calls attacks on civil liberties by the political and Christian right.
Some of the Africans cited in the report as heading African organizations set up by the U.S. religious right maintain that they are just using funds from foreign friends who share similar beliefs.
Among them is Joseph Okia, nephew of President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, where proposed legislation would invoke the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”
“Definitely there is a link between conservative Christians in America and conservative Christian leaders in Uganda,” Okia confirmed to the report’s researchers. Okia spoke of “a close intellectual and mentoring relationship.”
As the United States slowly but surely evolves on the issue of homosexuality and gay rights, its main detractors are taking their show on the road. This isn’t a new initiative, but it is one that is ongoing. I would like to think these leaders abroad would look to us and follow our lead. I’m not that naive, but I do think at the very least, we can grow louder in calling out the culprits who helped create the kind of cultural wars that have gays of color living in fear.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick