Veteran Lawyer and opposition leader, Ousainou Darboe, has said the Gambia government is using the homosexuality debate to divert the attention of Gambians from more pressing issues and that withdrawal from EU negotiations will have adverse ramifications for the country.
In an interview with The Standard at his Banjul chambers yesterday, he enunciated: “I am not sure whether the statement I heard from the Minister of Foreign Affairs is a complete withdrawal from negotiations with the EU. If I understand him well he was saying that they will not discuss homosexual issues with EU. I was taken aback by that statement. The Gambia is a secular society. It is a secular state. It is not a state that operates on Islamic law and principles. It is not an Islamic state. I think the government, and President Jammeh in particular, are trying to use Islamic values to divert people’s attention from the problems of the country. After all, I know for a fact that those who profess belief in the Christian religion are against homosexuality so they cannot say we are against this because it is against our values as Muslims. Are they saying that this is condoned by the Christians? I know that the main Christian churches are up in arms against homosexuality. So, I want to advise The Gambia Government to be very circumspect in the statements they make. They should not try to create a situation where the focus is on one particular religious grouping.
“When did homosexuality become an issue in this country? It had never been an issue in this country. I had never heard of any people of the same sex wanting to get married or co-habiting in The Gambia? The government’s obsession with this homosexuality is a tactic to divert people’s attention from the endemic problems confronting the nation. We see that everyday poverty is on the increase. People’s standard of living and earning capacities are on the decline. We have things that we need in schools and hospitals. All this talk about free education are all glossy statements that are not supported by any tangible facts. If Jammeh is indeed criminalising homosexuality for moral reasons why has he not criminalised prostitution? Jammeh is known for making ill-considered, extemporaneous statements. Things just come to his mind and he just utters them without proper consideration. I think a head of state should be very, very careful in making his statements because whatever he says can be regarded as government policy. In The Gambia here government policies are seen as law when they have not even been enacted.”
He added: “I think the withdrawal from EU negotiations will be most disastrous if we have to strain our relations with such valuable development partners. That will be very unfortunate. After all, the EU are not saying that ‘come and let’s discuss the issue of homosexuality’ but about human rights in general. The EU wants us to discuss prison conditions. We are all prime candidates for Mile 2 because we are seeing ministers going to Mile 2 either at the remand wing or as convicted prisoners. You have judicial officers of the highest echelons who were detained. We have seen the director of prisons himself even detained there. Human rights should be the concern of everybody because we should put ourselves in the shoes of those people in Mile 2. I went to Mile 2 when I was given a conducted tour of the facility by the government in search of Kanyiba Kanyi and at that time the remand wing was in a very terrible condition. This happened at the time when the six journalists were in detention and it was a horrible sight.”
By Sainey Darboe (Standard Newspaper)