Two years after he pulled his country out of The Commonwealth, President Yahya Jammeh has proclaimed Gambia as an Islamic republic.
In a broadcast on on Saturday, Jammeh claimed that the decision was taken in order to shake off “colonial legacy”.
Gambia is predominantly a Muslim nation as 95 per cent of its 1.8 million population practice Islam.
“In line with the country’s religious identity and values I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” UK Guardian quoted him as saying on the state television.
“As Muslims are the majority in the country, Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy.”
His office also released a statement where he reportedly said: “Gambia’s destiny is in the hands of the Almighty Allah. As from today, Gambia is an Islamic state. We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of the citizens.”
According to Al Jazeera, Jammeh is yet to formally communicate the decision to the head of the country’s Islamic body.
“We haven’t met yet to discuss over the presidential announcement,” Momodou Lamin Touray, Supreme Islamic Council chairman, told the news outfit.
Hamat Bah, of the opposition National Reconciliation Party, criticised the decision. “There is a constitutional clause that says that Gambia is a secular state,” he said. “You cannot make such a declaration without going through a referendum.”
Jammeh, who has been in power for 21 years, cultivates the image of a practicing Muslim, and is often seen holding a Koran or prayer beads.
A controversial leader, he is about the only known figure with many appellations, some of which are: Alhaji, Sheik, Chief, Ambassador, and Dr.
The 50-year-old is a retired military officer.
Commenting on the new development, Guardian quoted Sidi Sanneh, a former foreign minister, who has become a US-based dissident, as saying: “Starved of development funds because of his deplorable human rights record and economic mismanagement, Jammeh is looking towards the Arab world as substitute for and source of development aid.”