Gambian Dictator Cracks Down on Witches

Friday, May 22, 2009
Alhaji Yahya Jammeh

Life in The Gambia, which has been quite oppressive since dictator Alhaji Yahya Jammeh first seized power in 1994, took a turn for the truly strange in recent months when people were rounded up as part of a campaign to rid the country of sorcery. Jammeh loyalists, known as “Green Boys” on account of their penchant for wearing green clothes and green face paint, forced at least a thousand Gambians at gun point to travel to secret locations, where “doctors” wearing red tunics dispensed a “foul-smelling” concoction that caused people to hallucinate, climb walls, endure terrible stomach pains, and, in a few cases, die.

According to media accounts and Amnesty International, Jammeh was determined to root out witches and sorcerers who were harming the country. Many people fled Gambia from January to March to avoid the Green Boys and witch doctors, leaving whole regions deserted.
Jammeh, who demands that he be called “His Excellency President Professor Doctor,” has subjected his people to other bizarre decrees, like ingesting herbs and bananas to cure AIDS in three days. When not doing that, Jammeh has threatened to behead homosexuals, subjected political opponents to arrest and torture, and had journalists murdered.
According to his official biography, Jammeh attended a military police officers course at Fort McClellan in Alabama six months before he staged his 1994 coup. The same biography boasts that he “Possesses extensive knowledge in traditional herbal therapy especially in the treatment of Asthma and Epilepsy,” and that he was awarded the “World Lifetime Achievement Award” from the American Biographical Institute, which is actually a company that sells diplomas.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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