Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh is the president of Gambia.

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Country of ResidenceGambia
Date of Birth1965-05-25
Place Of BirthKanilai
ReligionSunni Islam
TitleHead of State

Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh (Arabic: يحيى عبدالعزيز جيمس جنكنج جامع; born 25 May 1965)[3] is the president of Gambia. As a young army officer, he took power in a July 1994 military coup and was elected as President in 1996; he was re-elected in 2001, 2006, and 2011.


President Jammeh received a secondary school education in the Gambia, joined the Gambian National Army in 1984, was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1989, and in 1992 became commander of the Gambian Military Police.[4] He received extensive military training in neighboring Senegal and at United States Army School of the Americas.[citation needed]

Rise to power

On 22 July 1994, a group of young officers in the Gambian National Army seized power from President Dawda Jawara in a military coup by taking control of key facilities in the capital city, Banjul.[5] The coup took place without bloodshed and met with very little resistance.[5] The group identified itself as the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC). Jammeh, who was 29 years old at the time, was the chairman of the AFPRC. The AFPRC then suspended the constitution, sealed the borders, and implemented a curfew. While Jammeh's new government justified the coup by decrying corruption and lack of democracy under the Jawara regime, army personnel had also been dissatisfied with their salaries, living conditions, and prospects for promotion.[5]


Jammeh founded the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction as his political party. He was elected as president in September 1996.[6] Foreign observers did not deem these elections free and fair.[6] He was re-elected on 18 October 2001 with about 53% of the vote; this election was generally deemed free and fair by observers,[7] despite some very serious shortcomings ranging from overt government intimidation of voters to technical innovations (such as raising the required deposit to stand for election by a factor of 25) to distort the process in favour of the incumbent regime.[8]

A coup attempt against Jammeh was reported to have been thwarted on 21 March 2006; Jammeh, who was in Mauritania at the time, quickly returned home. Army chief of staff Col. Ndure Cham, the alleged leader of the plot,[9] reportedly fled to neighboring Senegal, while other alleged conspirators were arrested[10] and were put on trial for treason.[11] In April 2007, ten former officers accused of involvement were convicted and given prison sentences; four of them were sentenced to life in prison.[12]

Jammeh ran for a third term in the presidential election held on 22 September 2006; the election was initially planned for October but was moved forward because of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.[citation needed] He was re-elected with 67.3% of the vote and was declared the winner of the election; the opposition candidate Ousainou Darboe finished second, as in 2001.[13]

In November 2011, Jammeh was again re-elected as president for a fourth term in office, reportedly having received 72% of the popular vote.

Foreign travel

Jammeh with Obama in 2009

In May 2004, he delivered the commencement address to the St. Mary's College of Maryland graduating class of 2004. In the address, he stressed a commitment to education since taking power in The Gambia.

In early December 2006, Jammeh made a three-day visit to Iran, where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; Ahmadinejad said that Iran would provide aid to assist in the development of The Gambia, and he and Jammeh spoke of deepening ties between the two countries.[14][15]

In December 2007, he traveled to Taiwan with the objective of developing trade relations between the two countries. In, June 2012, he revisited Taiwan to facilitate the exchange of opinions in terms of international affairs and bilateral development between the two countries.[16]

He met US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during an official reception at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on 23 Sep 2009. [17]

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addressed the 2009 United Nations General Assembly at New York on 24 September 2009. He expressed the relevancy of global collaboration but condemned the exploitation of Africa's natural resources by multinational corporations. He stated that the UN must come to the rescue of Africa otherwise we Africans stand ready to liberate ourselves from eternal bondage at any cost.[18]


World Leadership

According to the NYU Center on International Cooperation, The Gambia is a regional leader in peacekeeping. For the number of peacekeeping troops contributed per capita, the country is ranked:[19]

  • Second (#2) in West Africa
  • Third (#3) in all of Africa
  • Seventh (#7) in the world


According to The Daily Observer, the new U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia, Edward M. “Ned” Alford, praised President Jammeh for his peacekeeping efforts. "A relationship built on history of students' exchange. Today, many Gambians studied and continue to study in America. Based on the history of the Peace Corps, so many young Americans have served here and gone back to the US, telling great stories about this country. We also discussed issue concerning economic ties." [20]


According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), President Jammeh has contributed troops to a number of peacekeeping operations:[21]

  • Since 1990, the President Jammeh has sent peacekeeping forces to the following places: Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Sudan, Burundi, Darfur, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Chad.
  • President Jammeh has contributed over 200 troops per year to African Union missions from 2005 to 2007.
  • President Jammeh contributed to an ECOWAS mission in 2003, sending over 150 troops.
  • President Jammeh also contributed over 100 troops to UN missions in 2003 and 2004 (over 100 troops each year), and over 200 troops from 2008 to 2010.



On 15 May 2008, Jammeh announced that his government would introduce legislation that would set rules against homosexuals that would be "stricter than those in Iran", and that he would "cut off the head" of any gay or lesbian person discovered in the country.[22] News reports indicated his government intended to have all homosexuals in the country killed.[22] In the speech given in Tallinding, Jammeh gave a "final ultimatum" to any gays or lesbians in The Gambia to leave the country.[22]

Claims of medical treatments and cures

In January 2007, Jammeh claimed he could cure HIV/AIDS and asthma with natural herbs.[23][24] His claimed treatment program includes instructing patients to cease taking their anti-retroviral drugs.[25][26] His claims have been criticized for promoting unscientific treatment that could have dangerous results, due to the belief that those discharged from his program cannot infect others.[23][24] In December 2011, he restated during an interview that the alleged cure for HIV/AIDS was "going very well".[27]

Fadzai Gwaradzimba, the country representative of the United Nations Development Programme in The Gambia, was told to leave the country after she expressed doubts about the claims and said the remedy might encourage risky behaviour.[28]

In August 2007, Jammeh claimed to have developed a single dose herbal infusion that could treat high blood pressure.[29]

Jammeh has also claimed to develop a treatment for infertility in women as part of what is called the President's Alternative Treatment Program (PATP).[30][31][32]

Historical claims

According to the Daily Observer newspaper, Jammeh claimed on 26 July 2010, that The Gambia had played an important role in the aviation industry, specifically, "that the first Atlantic flight and the first flight from Eastern Europe landed in The Gambia. "[33] At the same time Jammeh also stated that "this country is one of the oldest and biggest countries in Africa that was reduced to a small snake by the British government who sold all our lands to the French. "[34]


President Jammeh, like the majority of Gambians,[3] is a practising Muslim.[35]

In July 2010, Jammeh stressed that people should believe in God, saying that "If you don't believe in God, you can never be grateful to humanity and you are even below a pig. "[36]

In 2011 he told the BBC that "I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so. "[37]


Restrictions to press freedom

Jammeh has been accused of restricting freedom of the press. Harsh new press laws were followed by the unsolved killing of Deyda Hydara, editor of The Point tabloid. Hydara, who had been mildly critical of the Jammeh regime, was brutally gunned down in December 2004. Alhagie Martin, one of Jammeh’s closest military aides, has been named in connection with Hydara's killing. It has, however, not been possible to verify the allegation linking Martin with Hydara's slaying. It is widely believed that Jammeh is responsible for Hydara's murder.[38] Jammeh has denied that security agents were involved in the killing.[39]

In April 2004 he called on journalists to obey his government "or go to hell". In June 2005 he stated on radio and television that he has allowed "too much expression" in the country.[40]

In July 2006, journalist Ebrima Manneh of The Daily Observer was reportedly arrested by state security after attempting to republish a BBC report criticizing Jammeh shortly before an African Union meeting in Banjul; his arrest was witnessed by coworkers.[41] Though ordered to release Manneh by an Economic Community Of West African States court, the Gambian government denied that Manneh was imprisoned.[42] According to AFP, an unnamed police source confirmed Manneh's arrest in April 2009, but added he believed Manneh "is no longer alive".[42] Amnesty International named Manneh a prisoner of conscience and a 2011 "priority case".[43] The Committee to Protect Journalists has also called for his release.[41]

Alleged human rights abuses

On 10 and 11 April 2000, the government was accused in the killing of 12 students and a journalist during a student demonstration to protest the death of a student in The Gambia. Jammeh was accused of ordering the shooting of the students, but the government denied the allegations. A government commission of inquiry reportedly concluded that the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers were "largely responsible" for many of the deaths and other injuries. The commission also said that five soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Battalion were responsible for the deaths of two students at Brikama. The government stated that the report implicated several PIU officers in the students' deaths and injuries, but those responsible were not prosecuted.[44]

Newspaper reports list dozens of individuals who have disappeared after being picked up by men in plain-clothes, and others who have languished under indefinite detention for months or years without charge or trial.[45] The regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ordered the Gambia government to produce one journalist who was disappeared.[46][47][48]

In March 2009 Amnesty International reported that up to 1,000 Gambians had been abducted by government-sponsored "witch doctors" on charges of witchcraft, and taken to detention centers where they were forced to drink poisonous concoctions.[49] On 21 May 2009, The New York Times reported that the alleged witch-hunting campaign had been sparked by the President Yahya Jammeh, who believed that the death of his aunt earlier that year could be attributed to witchcraft.[50] Jammeh has also been linked with the 2004 massacre of 44 Ghanaian migrants and 10 other ECOWAS nationals.[51][52][53]

Death penalty

Though previously regarded by Amnesty International as "abolitionist in practice", having had no executions since 1985,[54] on 27 August 2012, the Gambian government confirmed that nine prisoners were executed by firing squad.[55] This followed President Jammeh's stated intention to carry out all death penalties before mid-September amid protests from the European Union and others.[56]

Personal life

Jammeh's first marriage ended in divorce.[57] Jammeh married his second wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh, in 1999,[57] and they have two children as of 2007: a daughter, Mariam Jammeh, and a son, Muhammed Yahya Jammeh. The latter was born in late 2007, when his daughter was eight years old.[58] Both of his children were born in Washington, D. C., and U. S. citizenship recognition was requested for the first child – but her request was denied (because, as a child of a foreign person holding diplomatic exemption status, she was not considered subject to the jurisdiction of the United States when born, as is required for birthright citizenship in the United States).[59]

On 30 September 2010, Jammeh announced his marriage to a 21-year-old (or possibly 18-year-old[1]) additional wife by the name Ms. Alima Sallah, daughter of Mr Omar Gibril Sallah, Gambia's current Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Mrs Zahra Sallah.[57][60] It was announced that his new wife would officially be referred to as Lady Alima Yahya Jammeh, and would not be referred to as a "first lady", since Zeinab Suma Jammeh is the official "first lady".[60]

According to at least one source, his marriage to Ms. Sallah was a shock to his other wife Zeinab Suma Jammeh, and the additional marriage led to strains in their relationship and even plans for their divorce.[61] Zeinab Jammeh had reportedly already been living in the U. S. separately from her husband for some time.[61] Ms. Sallah reportedly also left Gambia for the U. S. in June 2010.[61] According to the same publication, he then divorced Ms. Sallah in early 2011.[1][2]

Women's rights

President Jammeh has demonstrated positive action for women's rights:

  • President Jammeh’s cabinet includes a Secretary of State for Women's Affairs, a top post which is currently held by Isatou Njie-Saidy.[62]
  • According to a 2012 Associated Press article, "Yahya Jammeh...has made progress on issues such as women's rights. "[63]

Fatou Bensouda

President Jammeh’s former Justice Minister[64] Fatou Bensouda is the first woman and African to assume the office of Chief Prosecutor in the International Criminal Court.[65]

The Guardian reported, "Yet among those who follow...the ICC, there is a surprising degree of faith in Bensouda's leadership, and [she has a good] professional relationships with [President] Jammeh" [66]

Time magazine listed Mrs. Bensouda among the 100 most influential people in the world in its annual Time 100 issue. She has been named by the leading African Magazine, Jeune Afrique, as the 4th most Influential Personality in Africa in the Civil Society Category and one of the 100 most Influential African Personalities.[67]

"I have always had aspirations about wanting to do something, she said. But I wanted to do something for the victims, for the underdogs, and if it has to take me to this level to do that, I welcome it. " [68]

Public Health Progress

Under President Jammeh, The Gambia has improved public health. In October 2012, it was reported that The Gambia has made significant improvements in polio, measles immunization, and the PCV-7 vaccine. [69]

The Gambia was certified as polio-free in 2004. "The Gambia EPI program is one of the best in the WHO African Region, " Thomas Sukwa, a representative of the World Health Organization, said, according to the Foroyaa Newspaper. "It is indeed gratifying to note that the government of the Gambia remains committed to the global polio eradication initiative. " [70]

Titles and styles

The official title used is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Naasiru Deen.[71] He is Commander In Chief of The Armed Forces and Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of The Gambia.[72]

Awards and honors

In May 2004, he is honored with the Honorary Doctorate by the St. Mary's College of Maryland as a mark of respect on his visit to the said Institution.[73]

In 2008 he received awards for the pursuit of peace from the International Parliament for Safety and Peace (IPSP) in Palermo, Italy.[74] The IPSP also helped arrange for Jammeh to receive the honorary titles of Kentucky colonel[75] and Nebraska Admiral [76][77][78][79]

Jennifer Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for the Governor of Nebraska, acknowledged that Jammeh was granted an admiralship in the Nebraska Navy[80], but later stated "We regret that this individual has attempted to embellish a certificate for a Nebraska admiralship, claiming that it was a high honor bestowed upon him by the governor, when to the best of our knowledge, this person has no relationship with or ties to Nebraska. "[81]

He received honorary doctorates from Universidad Empresarial de Costa Rica, Norman Academy,[82] and National Taipei University of Technology. [83]

Further reading

  • Hughes, Arnold (2000). "‘Democratisation’ under the military in The Gambia: 1994–2000". Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 38 (3): 35–52. doi:10.1080/14662040008447825.
  • Perfect, David (2010). "The Gambia under Yahya Jammeh: An Assessment". The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 99 (406): 53–63. doi:10.1080/00358530903513681.
  • Saine, Abdoulaye (2008). "The Gambia's ‘Elected Autocrat Poverty, Peripherality, and Political Instability,’ 1994–2006". Armed Forces & Society 34 (3): 450–473. doi:10.1177/0095327X07312081.


  1. Breaking News: Gambia – Jammeh Divorces First Lady Alima Sallah, Freedom Now Newspaper online, 26 Apr 2011.
  2. Breaking News: Gambia – First Lady Jammeh to Visit us Next Week, Freedom Now Newspaper online, 18 June 2011. HE reportedly tied the knot with a 22-year-old charming Ghanaian lady in Kumasi last weekend. Mrs. Nora Jammeh, formerly called Munira Yahaya, a graduate of Sunyani Polytechnic, was engaged to the Gambian president two weeks ago in The Gambia, which was followed by the secret wedding at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Kumasi last Sunday.
  3. Country Profiles: Sub-Saharan Africa: Gambia, U. K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office, 18 July 2011 .
  4. Index J
  5. Wiseman, John A., Africa South of the Sahara 2004 (33rd edition): The Gambia: Recent History, Europa Publications Ltd., 2004, page 456.
  6. Background Note: The Gambia, U. S. Department of State, 22 Apr 2011.
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  8. "Democratization in Africa" by Diamond and Plattner (ed), Johns Hopkins University Press (1999), pages 216–227 [1]
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  10. "Arrests over Gambia 'coup plot'", BBC News, 28 Mar 2006.
  11. "Suspected Gambian coupists before court martial", Afrol News, 6 Oct 2006.
  12. "Gambia jails army coup plotters", Reuters (IOL), 20 Apr 2007.
  13. "Gambian president is re-elected", BBC News, 23 Sep 2006.
  14. "Pressure has no impact on Iran-Gambia ties: Ahmadinejad", Islamic Republic News Agency, 4 Dec 2006.
  15. "Gambia Calls for Expansion of Ties with Iran", Fars News Agency, 4 Dec 2006.
  16. Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh In Taiwan On A State Visit
  17. Anti-Dictator T-Shirt Brings Life Sentence in Gambia President Yahya Jammeh with the Obama's – Chicago Citizens Newspaper
  18. shtml Gambia - General Debate of the 64th Session
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  21. “The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute”
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  24. President Jammeh discharges 41 HIV/AIDS treated patients, The Daily Observer (Banjul), 12 July 2010.
  25. Gambian president's claim of AIDS cure causes alarm, USA Today, 20 Feb 2007.
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  31. More Barren Women Seek President Jammeh's Treatment, All Africa Global Media, 2 Oct 2011.
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  34. British Govt is Supporting Opposition Parties, Daily Observer, 28 July 2010.
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  37. BBC News - Gambia's Yahya Jammeh ready for 'billion-year' rule
  38. "Thousands protest peacefully at murder of journalist", IRIN, 22 Dec 2004.
  39. Gambian opposition claims fraud, BBC News, 25 Sep 2006.
  40. Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, Reporters Without Borders.
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  75. President Jammeh receives Kentucky Colonel award, Republic of the Gambia State House web site.
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