Monday, May 18, 2015

Are U.S. sanctions against Jammeh imminent?

Dr. Susan Rice, National Security Adviser
The Obama administration, through Dr. Susan Rice the National Security Advise, reacted swiftly to the latest threats to the LGBT community issued by Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator, by issuing a condemnation of Jammeh's threat to slit the throats of gay men in The Gambia.

"We condemn his comments, and note these threats come at an alarming deterioration of the broader human rights situation in The Gambia" Rice said in a statement.

The anti-gay rhetoric of Yaya Jammeh has been gathering steam as the economy started to slid downhill in 2011.  As a means of diverting attention away from real economic hardships facing Gambians, Jammeh's anti-gay rhetoric became harsher that resulted in actual arrests and torture of some young Gambians accused of being gay.   The threats culminated into the passage of anti-gay law known as the "aggravated homosexuality", signed into law by Jammeh, punishable by life imprisonment.

Jammeh heightened his harassment of gays and lesbians despite warnings from the United States, the European Union and LGBT advocacy groups in the U.S. and Europe, leading to further arrests and torture of gays and lesbians. These persistent threats have led members of the LGBT community to seek refuge in neighboring Senegal where they are languishing in shelters and depending on outside assistance for their livelihood.

In recognition of the plight of the LGBT community in The Gambia that is under constant attack from Yaya Jammeh, the U.S. government is left with little option but to review its policy towards the Jammeh regime.

While Human Rights Campaign's Fred Sainz described the Susan Rice statement as "forceful", Robert F. Kennedy Center's Jeff Smith acknowledged that "while strong denunciation from the White House, while certainly welcome, are not enough."  Jeff Smith further advocated for "visa bans and travel restrictions of The Gambia political leadership."

The scope and extent of the sanctions must be extended to include Yaya Jammeh, his wife, the Ministers of Interior, Foreign Minister,  Information, Communication, Infrastructure and Presidential Affairs.  The ban should also be extended to the Chief of the Armed Forces, and Service Chief.  The travel and visa ban must be extended to include all members of the notorious National Intelligence Agency (NIA).  In addition to the travel bans and visa restrictions, US support to the Gambian military should also be reviewed.