Gambia has now been declared an Islamic republic
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, the President of Gambia, recently declared his country , where 90% citizens are Muslim, an Islamic republic. In doing so, Gambia joins a few other officially Islamic countries including Iran, Pakistan and – in Africa, Mauritania.
Speaking on state TV, Mr Jammeh said the proclamation was in line with Gambia’s “religious identity and values”, adding, “As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy”. Mr Jammeh withdrew Gambia from the Commonwealth in 2013, describing the organisation as neo-colonial.
Mr Jammeh, who has been President of Gambia for 21 years, has had strained relations with the West in recent years. The European Union temporarily withheld aid money to Gambia last year because of its poor human rights record.
It remains to be seen what this declaration of Islamic Republic will mean for minority Christian groups in Gambia. For the moment, the President reassured everyone that no dress code would be imposed and citizens of other faiths would be allowed to practise freely. The economy of this small West African country, a former British colony, relies heavily on tourism so there is some hope that strict Sharia law will not be imposed in the near future for the sake of the country’s vital tourist trade at least.