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» 04.07.2008 - Gambia leader validates Mugabe's re-election
» 28.02.2008 - Gambia editor returns to dock
» 25.01.2008 - APRC sweeps Gambia polls
» 24.01.2008 - Gambia holds local elections
» 19.11.2007 - Gambia's torture leader falls
» 16.04.2007 - Gambian leader dispels being a fool
» 29.01.2007 - Gambian President laughs at opponents
» 26.01.2007 - Gambia ruling party leads in legislative polls

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Politics | Society | Human rights

Gambian President tells citizens "Forgive me"

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh:
«I forgive all of you and I expect all of you to forgive me.»

© afrol News / UN Photo
afrol News, 15 December
- Gambian President Yahya Jammeh Friday took an oath of office for another five year mandate. Mr Jammeh was re-elected to office on 22 September presidential elections after he had polled 69 percent of the votes. The Gambian President said he had forgiven every Gambian with whom he has an axe to grind. He also asked all Gambians to forgive him.

"I forgive all of you and I expect all of you to forgive me," he told a large crowd at the Independence Stadium in Bakau, northwest of the Gambian capital, Banjul.

President Jammeh's inauguration was attended by several world leaders, including those from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Taiwan - the latter being one of The Gambia's major donors.

President Jammeh was economical in his speech, which is very unusual. Interestingly, he had not uttered a word about upholding the rule of law, democracy, human rights and good governance in the country.

In a nutshell, Mr Jammeh stressed the need for Gambians to throw their political, religious and ethnic differences and rally behind the government to develop the country. He said after voting him into office with landslide, time had come for Gambians to accord him the necessary support during his third term in office.

President Jammeh was upbeat that it is easy to develop and grease the economic engines of a small country like The Gambia. He emphasised discipline to prevail among Gambians of all classes, defending, "when I was a junior soldier, one of my instructors told me that being disciplined does not harm but one can break an arm or go to jail for being undisciplined."

Mr Jammeh promised that his government would eradicate electricity blackouts in the country by the end of 2007. He said it was impossible for The Gambia to realise its Silicon Value dreams without arresting its "epileptic and erratic" energy supply, which has been scaring away potential investors.

Gambian President in his speech thanked all Gambians, including those who oppose him. He admitted that his government's 13-year rule was punctuated with numerous challenges but that his government would be able to live up to expectations.

Holding the Quran, President Jammeh took oath of office before the Chief Justice Abdul Karim Savage saying, "I do swear that I will fully execute the functions of the office of the President and that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the republic of The Gambia according to law, so help me God."

Since Mr Jammeh came to power in a 1994 coup - after he had seized power from the country's founding father, Sir Dawda Jawara - there have been repeated reports of violations of human rights, democracy and rule of law in a country that was once described as a champion of human rights in Africa.

During his period, security forces have been accused of inflicting systematic torture on opponents of President Jammeh. Also, the era has seen waves of attacks on critical private media, with fire and bullets being used to silence journalists and their institutions.

On the eve of the inauguration, the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) reminded leaders from democratic countries attending the Banjul ceremony to mark the start of another five-year term for Gambian President that 16 December would also be the second anniversary of journalist Deyda Hydara's still unpunished murder.

The media watchdog group said it particularly warned Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-Chang, whose government is a strong supporter of the Jammeh regime, against continuing to back a ruler who is on RSF's list of press freedom predators.

"With 10 journalists arrested in 2006, one missing, many others in exile, countless unpunished crimes in which the President's supporters are suspected of being the perpetrators or accomplices, a murdered journalist’s memory besmirched by the government and a permanent climate of fear - Jammeh's record on press freedom is appalling," RSF said in a statement.

"Gambia's president proclaims his contempt for the rules of democracy," the press freedom group added. "We appeal to the leaders of democratic governments who are being wooed by this aggressive regime to not let themselves be accomplices to these crimes and to instead help Gambia's journalists recover their freedom."

Mr Hydara - the leading Gambian newspaper editor, co-founder and editor of 'The Point' and correspondents of RSF and 'AFP' in Banjul - was shot dead at the wheel of his car on 16 December 2004. Deyda had previously received threats from National Intelligence Agency, which had put him under surveillance a few minutes before he was gunned down.

There have been no serious attempts to investigate Mr Hydara's killing and the report published six months after the act depicted the slain editor as a "serial womaniser" whose bad acts led to his death.

“I don't believe in killing people. I believe in locking you up for the rest of your life. Then maybe at some point we say: 'Oh, he is too old to be fed by the state,' we release him and let him become destitute. Then everybody will learn a lesson from him," President Jammeh said when asked about Mr Hydara's killing in September.

Mr Jammeh's government is also famous for closing down media houses, arresting and detaining journalists in horrendous conditions as well as use fire to tame its seasoned critics. When asked about the closure of the bi-weekly newspaper, 'The Independent', President Jammeh said "Let the world go to hell. If I have good reasons of closing down any newspaper offices I will do so."

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