By Modou S. Joof
The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has said his government will continue the rehabilitation and expansion of existing rural, urban and cross-country road networks, a development philosophy that he will not change for foreign aid that imposes “homosexuality and unbridled freedoms.”
In a New Year’s Eve address to Gambians, Jammeh said his country’s development achievements were attained in the past 19 years thanks to “a vision for national development that is anchored on faith in the Almighty Allah, self-reliance and honest productive work.”
He said: “Having come thus far, with the philosophy outlined above, I am not going to change that philosophy overnight because of foreign influence tagged to the bait of aid that is conditioned on the acceptance of alien cultures like homosexuality and unbridled freedoms that are not in line with our religious and cultural beliefs.”
“Yes we will guarantee the rights of all Gambians within the framework of our established traditions and cultural norms. Yet the guaranteeing of such rights is sacrosanct only to the extent that they do not trespass onto the rights of others or the general welfare of our society,” he added.
Since 1996, the Jammeh-led government have been criticised for violations of press freedom and freedom of expression, and the president has maintained a strong anti-gay stance since 2009 when he threatened to cut-off heads of homosexuals.
In his September 27, 2013 address to the UN General Assembly in New York, he said homosexuality is one of three biggest threats to human existance alongside excessive greed and obsession with world domination.
Also on New Year’s Eve, Jammeh announced he is lifting the ban on two media houses, Taranga FM and The Standard Newspaper which were arbitrarily closed in August and September 2012.
The Office of the President is pleased to inform the general public that the ban on Standard newspaper and Taranga FM has been lifted with immediate effect as a goodwill gesture for the New Year, he said in a statement.
But warns: “They are free to operate but the two institutions are urged to operate within the framework of the laws governing the media in this country.”
Meanwhile, the tri-weekly privately-owned The Daily News Newspaper, remained closed. It was forced to cease operation by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in September 2012.
The Gambia still maintains colonial laws the gag press freedom and freedom of expression. Some of the country’s media laws have been adjusted to impose lengthy jail terms and exorbitant fines on journalists and other citizens found guilty by the courts.