Useful website for LGBT Africa: Behind the Mask
Gambia information: http://www.mask.org.za/index.php?page=gambia
Gambia News (general): http://www.wow.gm/gambia/news
19 Doctor practices what his faith preaches 9/09 (non-gay background story)
26 October 2002 – Mark Maxon, Travel Writer
The Gambia: Bumster Trouble
Speaking the official language of a foreign country doesn’t just make life easier; it also makes life more amusing, not least because you can understand the local media. As I strolled round the Gambia’s Atlantic beach resorts this morning, the headline of the local newspaper caught my eye: ‘Mass Arrest of Bumsters’ proclaimed the front page of the Sunday Observer, while inside there were plenty of other notable headlines, including ‘Football Witchcraft Palaver’, ‘Surgeons Deliver 46-year-old Foetus’ and ‘Student Surprised to See Black Hole Eat Star’.
What a paper; I just had to buy it, if only to find out what a bumster was. Touts are a basic fact of life in the tourist areas of Africa, but in the Gambia they’re infamous, not so much for their voracity as for their nickname; everyone, from newspapers to policemen, calls them ‘bumsters’, which makes it practically impossible to take them seriously. Bumsters are young, unemployed youths who hang round the beaches of the Gambia, hustling tourists and trying to make money any way they can. The Gambia has high unemployment and no welfare system, so for school dropouts it’s not easy to make ends meet, and being a bumster is an obvious temptation. Tourists are rich, stupid and easy meat, and it sure beats having to work the peanut fields for a living.
It does make wandering around the beaches challenging for visitors, though, as we found out yesterday within a few minutes of arriving in Fajara, one of the resort areas on the Atlantic coast. The taxi dropped us off at a pleasant-sounding hotel, but unfortunately it hadn’t got enough room, so we started wandering round the area, peering at the map and generally looking like little lost toubabs. One guy latched on to us and said he knew a great place just down the road that might be suitable. The map in my guidebook seemed to bear no relationship to reality, so we figured we might as well go along with him, but by the time we decided to follow him, the word had spread. As if by magic, bumsters started materialising out of thin air.
‘Hey, how ya doin’, you wan’ room, I have good room, give you good price, where you from?’ they chanted, by now numbering eight with others homing in, seemingly appearing out of thin air from under rocks and from behind bushes. ‘This place you go, very good, we show you good place, no?’ The problem was I couldn’t take them seriously at all. One guy, a particularly ugly specimen, was wearing a red string vest and baggy shorts, and he couldn’t have looked more gay if he’d tried; given that this guy was known to everyone round here as a ‘bumster’, I had trouble keeping a straight face. Surely even the baking sun of the Gambia isn’t strong enough to make people think that red string vests are cool, is it? I idly wondered if Fajara was the seaside equivalent of Soho; these guys certainly looked sleazy enough.
‘If you want another place, I find you good place,’ the chorus continued, and meanwhile our initial guide, who was keeping quiet and seemed almost as irritated by the bum-boys as we were, led us to the hotel he’d mentioned. In we went, trailing an entourage that positively reeked of 1980s gay chic, and found a lovely apartment for four at D850 per night that sported satellite TV, air-conditioning and loads of space. We took it. However, it looked like the bumsters were still interested in hanging round with us, and they loitered outside the apartment, looking like they might start break-dancing or moon-walking at any moment. The lady renting the apartment explained that they wanted some money for their help, but we told her that apart from the initial guy they’d been nothing but a bunch of rude louts, so she told them to leave, and we slipped the guy who’d shown us the hotel a D10 note as a thank you.
Five minutes later, as we basked in the warm glow of CNN, the lady came back and said the guide was outside, and wanted a word with us. It seemed our bumster friends were proving harder to shake off than dog shit in the tread of your Doc Martens, but when Chris went to investigate he found out that our guide had been rolled by his bumster friends, and they’d stolen his D10 tip. He wanted another one, and as he seemed genuine enough we handed it over, resigned to the fact that we’d never know if this was yet another scam. Toubab tax is a funny beast… Apart from one niggling bumster who tried to talk to Sarah and got soundly ignored by all of us, we haven’t had any more hassle from the local irritants, which is weird after yesterday’s baptism by fire.
But today’s paper explains all; yesterday more than 200 bumsters were arrested by the Gambia National Guard, which was deployed in the tourist area following increased reports of hassle. According to the report the bumsters are being detained before being ‘transferred to Sapu, Jahali and Pacharr Rice Development Fields to engage in meaningful agricultural work’, which sounds pretty extreme, but at least it means that our newfound string-vested friends are probably digging paddy fields by now. Happily, the guy who showed us the hotel is still kicking around, so it seems justice has been served and the bumster threat has been eradicated from the Atlantic coast… for now, anyway.
Like 1980s gay fashion, though, I have a bad feeling that they’ll be back…
Two Days Later…
Unfortunately the effects of the police swoop on the bumster population are starting to wear off. The path from our hotel to the beach, previously a pleasant stroll through trees and past hotels to the white curve of the Kotu shoreline, has started springing ugly surprises every few paces. One particularly repugnant troll has taken up residence in the bushes by the road, and whenever any of us walk past he springs out, yelling, ‘Hey, hey, how you doing?’
Ignoring him elicits louder protestations, until you have no choice but to acknowledge him; I had my first experience of our new neighbour as I wandered down to the beach this afternoon.
‘Uh,’ I said without breaking my stride.
‘Hey, where were you yesterday?’ he asked.
‘Yesterday?’ I asked, thinking that I might be able to string him along by simply repeating the last word he said each time. Deep in my mind, a voice said, ‘Do not feed the monkeys.’ I tried to ignore it.
‘It was my wedding yesterday,’ continued the bumster. ‘Where were you?’
‘Where was I?’ I repeated, sticking to my guns.
‘Yeah. I got married.’
‘Married. Why weren’t you there?’
This threw me, and for a split second I forgot all about repeating things. This perfect stranger was asking me why I hadn’t been at his wedding – this required further investigation. The voice in my head repeated its warning, but I’d been bumstered, and I heard myself engaging before my brain could step in.
‘But I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before,’ I said.
‘Yes, from Friday, I showed you to your hotel, Golf Apartments, you remember.’
Oh god, I thought, this was probably one of those string-vested morons from the other day. ‘Sorry mate, I don’t know you,’ I said, and strode on.
‘You come and meet my wife,’ he said. ‘She’s just over here.’
‘Listen my friend,’ I lied. ‘Perhaps you should go and meet your wife, because it’s a little sad to be inviting perfect strangers round the day after your wedding. Now I don’t know you, and I’m going to the beach. Goodbye.’
‘You’re very rude,’ he said.
‘You should hear me when I’m angry,’ I said, and hit the road, only to find the guy who’d found us the hotel a few yards down the road. I thought I could trust this one; he’d been rolled by the others, for a start, and he had a happy face.
‘Hello’, he said.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘How are you?’
‘I am well,’ he said. ‘I am working over here.’
‘That’s good,’ I said.
‘I am making tea’, he said, ‘but I have no sugar. Can you help me?’
‘Um, sorry, I’m clean out of sugar,’ I said.
‘Perhaps you can give me five dalasi for sugar then?’ he tried.
‘Oh really, not you as well’ I thought, and repeated my get-out clause: ‘No thanks, I just don’t have the time. Sorry, I’m off to the beach.’
This time I ran. And to think, this was the off-season…
December 10, 2002 – Behind the Mask
Homosexuals and HIV/Aids
The story of the ostrich is an interesting one. When in the presence of grave danger, it prefers to bury its head in the ground, believing erroneously that by doing so that is by pretending that the danger does not exist, the danger will quietly go away! Perhaps the ostrich is a believer of the concept that, ‘If I do not see you that automatically means that you too do not see me!’ Life is never like that, and more especially, where danger is concerned. Sometimes we human beings also like to behave like the foolish ostrich. We often see what will hurt us gravely but prefer to look the other way for several reasons which may be society mediated, religiously oriented, culturally ingrained or as a result of our outright ignorance.
I am talking about the way we see homosexuals in our society… yes, homosexuals, those men who have sex with their fellow men. Some people I believe, are already frowning at my mere mention of the term, ‘homosexuals’, but do they not exist in our society? Are they not among our brothers and husbands and fathers and friends? Are they not among those who buy from us and sell to us? Do they not pray with us or even preach to us in the churches and mosques? They have been found among lawmakers, and even among kings. What I am saying is that homosexuals are not UFO’s (unidentified flying objects). They are human beings and are amongst us. But we prefer to deny them and not talk about them or even acknowledge their existence just the way we blatantly distanced ourselves from HIV/AIDS for several years, but were finally forced to embrace the sad fact about its existence after it had started destroying and killing us like no man’s business. Like the Ostrich, we have since buried our heads in the soil, pretending that homosexuals are not there or that they do not matter. Whom do we think we are fooling? None other but ourselves!
Especially considering the fact that HIV/AIDS spreads like wildfire among them, the homosexuals and then from them to those of us who are not homosexuals, because, these homosexuals are also bisexuals meaning that after having sex with fellow men is secret places, they return home to meet wives and girlfriends! In the fight against HIV/AIDS I will argue that we are a stumbling block to victory and we open ourselves to defeat by the scourge by vehemently refusing to acknowledge them – the homosexuals. And in so far as we continue to act as such, we must be ready to continue ‘fetching water with basket’ a futile effort indeed, even to the most mundane. By not acknowledging them, we must continue to fight a losing battle with HIV/AIDS.
It is a fundamental fact that most same-sex behaviour is conducted out of natural preference (please don’t ask me why a man would prefer his fellow man sexually, for that is not the intent of this focus). Apart from the natural preference for a fellow man, there are also situations when men are thrown into certain situation and are therefore forced to be engaged in homosexual practices (not their faults now, is it?). This happens when they are obliged to spend long periods in all-male company, such as in the military, prisons, monasteries and other strict religious domains, male-only educational establishment etc. While such institutional male homosexual behaviour represents only a small part of all male-to-male sex, it can nonetheless be important from the point of view of the AIDS epidemic. Male prisons, for example have been shown to make a significant contribution to some countries’ epidemic – both through drug injecting and male-to-male sex (UNAIDS technical update, prisons and AIDS)
In most countries, as is in The Gambia, a certain proportion of sex between men is some way commercial due to unemployment and failing economy. One only has to spend late nights in the various hotels around town to observe how our young men sell themselves for hard currencies to tourists! Much sex work is also highly informal, with the expectation perhaps of a small ‘present’ from ‘the boss’ for services rendered. This too may border on fear and job insecurity as individuals may do it unwillingly in order to protect their sources of income and employment. Sex between men occurs in most societies though its extent certainly varies from place to place, for cultural or other reasons. Its existence, however, is frequently denied by the authorities in many places because of religious teachings or cultural taboos, or because as individuals they feel uncomfortable with the subject.
Sexual acts between men have often been condemned, by civic and religious leaders, and criminalized by law. In some countries, penalties for those accused of sexual acts between men are among the severest available. Elsewhere, even where same-sex behaviour is not illegal, there is frequently unofficial persecution by the authorities (the police or military, for instance), or discrimination against or stigmatisation of those men known or thought to be having sexual relations with other men. For these reasons, in many parts of the world, The Gambia included, much sex between men is hidden or secretive. I don’t know and would wish to know how many programmes in the fight against HIV/AIDS are directed towards homosexuals in this country. But before I am furnished with that piece of information, I would like to hazard an intelligent guess. To my knowledge, no programme is directed towards them! So why is this so? Because no body knows where to reach them as they operate clandestinely since they have no rights here. As such, they continue to pose a serious threat to their wives and female partners.
Many males having sex with males out of preference or for commercial purpose as male sex workers have a wife or regular female partners at home. Frequently, the clients of male sex workers are married men or are behaviourally bisexual.
Challenges to be overcomed if we must engage the HIV virus on the homosexual front:
In The Gambia policy-makers and programme managers sometimes deny that male-to-male sex occurs or that their occurrence is significant to be taken seriously. Denial of the reality of male-to-male sex is an enormous obstacle to efforts at AIDS prevention and care must be taken not to relegate it, or else will be tantamount to ‘washing our hands in order to crack palm kernels for the chickens!’ Inadequate epidemiological data: Lack of, or unreliable epidemiological data are an obstacle to HIV prevention work. In The Gambia, risk exposure categories are not properly set up to take account of male-to-male sex. Perhaps research should be carried out to ascertain the prevalence of homosexuality in this country. This will be a first step towards tackling the HIV/AIDS on the homosexual front.
Lack of knowledge or awareness: Because HIV education emphasizes only heterosexual transmission, men may be ignorant of the risks of male-to male sex or consider that the risks don’t apply to them – and may therefore be less likely to protect themselves. Just as awareness programmes are directed towards the heterosexual mode of transmission of the virus, the homosexual mode should not be left out in the cold. Difficulty of reaching many of the men who have sex with men: Many homosexuals engage in casual, fleeting and anonymous sexual encounters.They may also not think of themselves as having sex with men. The combination of these factors makes them difficult to reach for prevention work. Male sex workers can be particularly difficult to access especially where the work is clandestine and where the workers are not organised into establishment.
Ways and means to identify them must therefore be sought.
Inadequate, inaccessible or inappropriate health facilities: Males having sex with fellow males seeking attention on sexual or medical matters, or tests for HIV or other STDs, may find such facilities to be lacking. Alternatively, the facilities may exist, but the men may find access to them difficult – for reasons of negative attitudes on the part of health staff towards same-sex behaviour, lack of discretion or anonymity for clients, inconvenient location or opening hours, or cost. So homosexual friendly services must be provided for those who are inclined in that respect.
Stigmatization and criminalization: The Gambian society is hostile to men who engage in same-sex behaviour, stigmatizing it and treating it as sinful or as criminal. Such men will then often not choose, or have the opportunity, to be honest about the fact that they have had sex with other men. Fearing to be questioned about their sexual behaviour, they will be reluctant to report symptoms of STDs including HIV. Because of this, all efforts at education on HIV and safer sex, the provision of condoms and appropriate STD and other medical care, are made extremely difficult. Hostility on the part society also hinders effective HIV prevention efforts aimed at adolescents and young men who have sex with other men. We must reach them now, or be FORCED to reach them much later when we must have lost so much in terms of both human and material resources!
Naturally, the choice is ours!
We cannot continue to ignore the threat we pose to ourselves as individuals and as a society by continually burying our heads in the dust and assuming that homosexuals do not matter or that they do not exist. Such stance could completely sour the good work being done daily by all stakeholders who continually battle to stem the spread of the disease. HIV/AIDS must be fought from all fronts. We must put religion, culture, personal feelings and all other sentiments aside if we are not to negate the efforts we are making and the successes we have achieved thus far. We MUST recognise those engaged in male-to-male (homosexual) activities we must accord them their right and provide them with conducive environments that will make it easier to reach them with services with which they can protect themselves and all others.
August 20, 2004 – Washington Blade, Washington, DC
Maryland man fights deportation to Gambia Gay: Gay exile claims abuse during U.S. incarceration
by Adrian Brune
It is no simple feat to obtain a student visa and an airline flight in one month’s time. But at the point Yorro Kuyateh fled his native Gambia for the United States, the impossible seemed easier to face than what he said is the inevitable: a lifetime of periodic imprisonment and vicious beatings for his political beliefs and his homosexuality. He said he arrived in the United States in August 1997, an itinerant with no money and few resources, usually wearing a cap to cover scars from the head injuries he incurred during his last arrest in Gambia. Unable to finish nursing school, Kuyateh said he overstayed his visa without seeking asylum — a common problem among refugees — and the Immigration & Naturalization Service apprehended him five years later. While detained in five different Midwestern jails for eight months, Kuyateh’s real torment began, he claimed. And he said it occurred under the watch of the INS.
Local police placed Kuyateh in the general population, where he said he endured constant physical, verbal and sexual abuse from other inmates, many of whom had been convicted of violent crimes. Pleas to the INS from Kuyateh for a transfer to a safe location went unanswered, he said. Finally, he said an inmate charged with murder, viciously beat him — the assault captured by a prison security tape — effectively ending his incarceration, but leaving him with permanent brain damage. “ My people treated me badly; I came here and they treated me just like my own people,” Kuyateh said, speaking occasionally with angry intonations. “But I will never have liberty in my country. They will certainly kill me.”Pattern of mistreatment? Though gay refugees have a right to seek asylum in the United States under a decree issued by Janet Reno in 1994, the INS — now under the broad umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security — does not single them out as a protected class in detention.
As a result, immigration rights activists say Kuyateh’s story echoes the accounts of many other gay exiles seeking refuge in the U.S., who are eventually afforded it only after sometimes enduring worse abuse than in their native countries. The federal government guarantees gay expatriates a fair hearing for political asylum. But activists say biases in locales across the nation often affect the ultimate — and often life or death — decision to allow a refugee to stay or force him to return to the country responsible for his original detriment. “ We hear from dozens of gay immigrants every year, some who have been beaten to the point of death by other inmates when the only thing they’ve done is violate their visa status,” said Victoria Nielson, a spokesperson for Immigration Equality, formerly the Lesbian & Gay Immigration Rights Task Force. “ Gay detainees face the worst of both worlds, held in terrible conditions, not knowing they could have sought asylum and, at that point, without the full recourse of the law.”
Gay immigrants to the United States often bear a greater burden of proof in front of a judge, forced to prove they are gay when they kept that fact secret in their country of origin, according to Asylum Research, a national organization that monitors and documents gay refugees and their dilemmas. They must also overcome language barriers and many times, the impact of physical and mental trauma, while immersed in a court system completely foreign to their own.
The agency responsible for Kuyateh’s situation, the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Division of Homeland Security, granted Yorro Kuyateh a hearing in Kansas City, Mo., in April 2003, shortly after his release, said Christopher V. Nugent, Kuyateh’s current pro bono attorney from the D.C. office of the law firm Holland & Knight. The former Gambian civics teacher knew almost nothing of his rights in the United States, but attempted to represent himself. Immigration Judge Jennie L. Gambastiani commissioned DHS trial attorney, Paula Davis, to directly examine and cross-examine him. That dual role ultimately posed was an ethical conflict of interest, according to Kuyateh’s advocates, forcing Davis to act simultaneously as his advocate and his prosecutor.
Davis neglected to admit evidence of Kuyateh’s beatings in Gambia and refused to elicit key testimony that would have allowed him to meet the burden of proof for asylum, according to gay Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who has stepped in as Kuyateh’s government advocate. Davis also asked hostile and, Frank says, arguably homophobic questions, comparing sodomy laws in Missouri and Kansas to those of Gambia, in an attempt to vitiate Kuyateh’s reasons for flight from Gambia. “ As a result of the trial attorney’s ethically problematic role, Mr. Kuyateh’s testimony and due process right to a full and fair hearing were significantly compromised,” Frank said in a July letter to the Executive Office for Immigration Review.
Gambastiani denied Kuyateh’s claim for asylum under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. He was ordered to return to Gambia but managed to find Nugent, who delayed his homecoming with an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Deputy Chief Counsel of Immigration Enforcement, Karl Cozad, has argued that Gambastiani correctly ruled in Kuyateh’s case. Kuyateh’s reasons for his failure to file an asylum application as soon as his student visa expired did not rise to extraordinary circumstances, he said. Cozad also disputed the danger Kuyateh faced in Gambia, asserting that harassment in Gambia under its sodomy laws resembled that of the United States.
“The immigration system is extremely challenging for gays and lesbians,” said Nugent, an immigration specialist. “There are absolutely no guidelines for their claims, but the INS is not about creativity, it’s about mass detention and deportation. I have recommended immigrants to seek asylum in Canada before because their system is far more welcoming.” Cozad refused to comment on the outcome of Kuyateh’s case, citing the possible endangerment of the petitioner. The board will render its decision on whether to hear Kuyateh’s appeal later this month. Neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the INS keeps statistics on the number of gay exiles to the U.S. every year, though watchdog groups estimate the numbers hover around 2,000. For its part, Immigration Enforcement claims it does not single out gay exiles because it maintains high detention standards to protect all immigrants in custody. “ Our detainees are kept separately from hard-core criminals unless they are one of them. If something did happen to a gay detainee, it would be reported to us and some kind of action would be taken,” said Immigrations Enforcement spokesperson Ernestine Fobbs.
“ It’s not to say that they don’t exist, but I have never heard of someone coming forth and saying, ‘I’m gay, I need special detaining facilities and procedures.’” While human rights organizations have not placed Gambia high on the list of offending governments, in the winter of 2003, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh called for a crackdown on gays, who he has compared to animals. Homosexual acts are illegal in the largely Muslim country, and those convicted of “having carnal knowledge against the order of nature” face imprisonment up to 14 years. Kuyateh said Gambians had expressed hostility toward him for being gay since he returned from college in Sierra Leone to work in a rural school in 1993. A government coup d’etat in 1995 furthered his endangerment, he said. Military police first arrested Kuyateh in 1995 on a violation of Gambia’s sodomy laws interrogate him about the whereabouts of his exiled brother-in-law, a former member of parliament, he claims. They repeated the arrest a year later, this time burning his genitals with cigarettes and whipping him with the metal end of the belt, he said.
Kuyateh said he doubted that he would survive his second incarceration, and fled as quickly as possible. Kuyateh now lives with a distant family friend in Maryland, unable to work due to a seizure disorder, and staving off depression and anxiety over his situation. Asylum would open the door to a new life for him by assisting him with medical care, housing and job opportunities. But the soft-spoken, affable man tries to take pleasure in small things while he awaits his future.
“ I went to Gay Pride for the first time in June,” Kuyateh said. “That was incredible.”
Adrian Brune can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 17, 2007 – CNN News
In Gambia, AIDS cure or false hope?
by Jeff Koinange
Banjul, Gambia – At the only hospital in the capital of this tiny West African nation, a 3-year-old AIDS patient named Suleiman receives his daily dose of medication — a murky brown concoction of seven herbs and spices served out of a bottle that once contained pancake syrup. The boy is told a spoonful a day will make him better. His mother, Fatuma, takes the same concoction, as do several dozen other AIDS and HIV patients here. Adults take two spoonfuls. " It’s amazing," Fatuma says. "Two weeks ago, I was very ill, weak and couldn’t eat without vomiting." This has become the treatment for HIV/AIDS patients here since early January, when Gambian President Yahya Jammeh announced he had discovered a cure for the disease that has wreaked havoc across Africa. He made that announcement in front of a group of foreign diplomats, telling them the treatment was revealed to him by his ancestors in a dream.
His concoction has stirred controversy and anger among health officials who say the president’s claims will bring false hope to the nation’s more than 20,000 HIV/AIDS patients. They are also afraid that it could cause patients to stop taking the anti-retroviral drugs that have been proven to prolong life and improve quality of living. One critic was Fadzai Gwaradzimba, the U.N. envoy to Gambia. She was abruptly kicked out of the country after saying on February 9 that patients should continue their normal treatment and that Jammeh’s concoction be "assessed by an international team of experts."
" The U.N. system encourages all patients currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment to continue to comply with their recommended treatment regimens while the efficacy of the new treatment is being assessed," she said. (Read full statement) The U.N. Development Program stands by the envoy’s remarks. The World Health Organization has also been critical of Jammeh’s treatment.
No formal medical training
Jammeh, 41, is a former army colonel who has no formal medical training. He wears white robes and carries a copy of the Quran with him in this mostly Muslim nation. His degree is a high school diploma. But he claims his family has a history of healing people through traditional African medicine. At the hospital in the capital, patients claim the president’s concoction is making a difference to them. Ousman Sow, 54, said he’s been HIV-positive since 1996 and had been taking anti-retrovirals for the past fours years until he volunteered for this program. Four weeks later, he said he’s gained 30 pounds and feels like a new person. " I am cured at this moment," he said. Asked if he had any HIV symptoms, he responded, "No, I don’t. As I stand before you I can honestly tell you I have ceased to have any HIV symptoms." Patient after patient gave similar statements to CNN. But it was difficult to verify the authenticity of their testimony. The government claims to have scientific evidence, but it did not provide any to CNN. Jammeh refused to speak to CNN for this report.
CNN also sought medical reports of the HIV/AIDS patients to see whether they are indeed on the mend. The material was not provided. The government would also not release the concoction to CNN for testing. Gambian Health Minister Tamsim Mbowe, a trained physician with multiple medical degrees, defended the so-called herbal cure. " I can swear, 100 percent, that this herbal medication His Excellency is using is working. It has the potency to treat and cure patients infected with the HIV-virus," he told CNN. What does he have to say to skeptics? " I will tell them, as a Western medical trained doctor with 13 years experience meeting different professors, meeting different colleagues of mine, I’ve seen His Excellency, my leader, coming up with herbal medications that are able to treat and cure patients with HIV-virus, which have been proven within all medical and laboratory parameters." Health officials worldwide remain doubtful of these claims. Experts also say it’s in places like Gambia that the poor and desperate will latch onto anything resembling hope.
" For a country’s leader to come up with such an outlandish conclusion is not only irresponsible, but also very dangerous, and he should be reprimanded and stopped from proclaiming such nonsense," said Professor Jerry Coovadia of the University of Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa.
How is it to be gay in Gambia now? About African Gay Scams, Predators and Victims
I have a sweet young gay friend (in Brikama) whom I met on internet. He tells me there are private beaches in Gambia where it is possible to be naked. I love to be naked on the beach! Do you have any such information ? Also about nice places to stay either gay owned or gay friendly. How is it to be gay in Gambia now? I’m thinking about my winter holidays (January/February). If you can’t help me perhaps you have address to someone who can ?
Thanks for your message. Your ‘sweet young gay friend’ must be considered with some serious caution. Without calling him a liar, as I know nothing about him, I urge you to read the news reports on my web site about Gambia. It is not a pretty picture.
The Internet is rife with scams and misrepresentations. And the beaches of Gambia are rife with touts and poor sex workers, as you can read. Poverty and sex are closely linked. That said, there may well be a nude beach in Gambia since a great many Scandinavians take holidays there and the ‘Scandies’ do like to be naked on beaches–as you well know. But I doubt it’s a public beach since it is a Muslim country and the two don’t mix. Perhaps there is an upscale hotel with a private beach populated with Scandies.
You can read a brief summary about Gambia at: http://www.britishhighcommission.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1025856201616
Homosexuality is strictly forbidden so any activity is underground, furtive, secretive and almost always in exchange for money–many non-gay sex workers will opt for gay sex for the money. An African website is Behind the Mask: http://www.mask.org.za/ and offers no positive views. I urge much caution (do not send your sweet boy any money) and I would love to read your report upon your return. I look forward to your words–and your safety.
I wouldn’t mind letting you write the story – but … please wait for a little while. I still don’t know what the real intentions of this young boy were; something tells me he is not a liar. But, I got fed up yesterday though with his teacher (?) as he wrote to me again urging for the money to send the boy to England. Here is the contents of his mail:
Mon, 17 Sep 2007
Can you let me know now how much that you can contribute on this for this boy to have way to go to England and learn and come back and work for the government. Sir you have to consider this boy,If you really have a good heart for this boy you would try for him to leave this country and educate in England, If you use your money to help this boy its would be a big reward for you, Sir dont act like that, I think you are having a good heart for this boy because I know if you have a good heart for him you would do it. Try to have the faith and help this young boy.”
My reply to this message: There will no NO more money and that’s final !
I much relieved that you have severed your relation with this endless pit of begging and conning and manipulation. You are very wise to see your vulnerability and to protect yourself from these pitiable people. The story you tell is so typical of the northern older European being swindled by erotic-tongued African youth. The ultimate price of course is losing your life, which happened to my friend George in Morocco.Bali is a much safer place for you with an identifiable gay scene and nude beach (although I don’t know where it is).
First of all I must tell you that I am utterly impressed about the work you obviously do keeping this website active. It must be a full time job – at least. I read the story about your friend George….. I can see him before me, being flirted by a dark-skinned young beauty, always being the one who gives in hope of even more passion and finally ….. A terrible fact of life as he is only one of too many…. The Gambia boy was not serious for me from a relation point of view. Of course it would be totally out of any reasonable question even to consider a serious realtionship between a 63 and 19 year old and in addition from a country with a totally different background in every possible respect.
However, a while ago I met a young guy from Bulgaria, he’s 30 now. There has been (quite a lot of) money involved here as well but I firmly believe it’s different – still. He wants to learn Norwegian and settle down here where life is easier than in Bulgaria which, as you know, is still among the poorest in Europe. I’m going to visit him for a weekend in November. He’s a very handsome young man. I suppose I might have ended up with far less problems if I had taken interest in older men, but I really haven’t had any serious experience that I couldn’t cope with.
I guess I’m fortunate. I get a lot of mail also from the very young ones who think I’m sexy and good looking. Can you imagine, at the age of 63?
Yes, GlobalGayz is more than a full time job; it is a huge labor of love and thanks to the Internet I can communicate with interesting risk-taking people like you and converse about playful/serious matters. My late friend George is one I will never forget. He had his full wits and wisdom with him…but he chose a boy with a deeply injured soul… Be warned. Your ‘final’ response to the Gambia boys is a relief to me. I feared you would continue vulnerable to them but I see you have made a clear stop to that. No you were not harsh at all since anything less would be picked up by them and played for more.
As for Mr Bulgaria, I could repeat my warning not to send more money as he too is suspect, regardless of his effusive sincerity. But you appear to be aware of this and now it’s wholly your choice to play your gamble or not. If you have a plentiful supply of money you can play that game and have some sex-fantasy fun with it; but if you are of modest means you run a higher risk as you play with him (and perhaps others sitting next to him at the computer) as he siphons your account. Don’t be surprised, if you go deeper with him, if he/they steal your bank ID and take more than you intend. Don’t take much cash when you visit him in November.
I once had a younger Thai friend whom, after my return to USA, I supported for English classes–allegedly. But there was always some additional family or school or medical or motorbike emergency that necessitated more money. Then one day he wrote begging for a large amount to help pay for his hospital bill for an illness. As it happened, I had another Thai friend who checked on the story and found my young friend was setting up to scam me (urged on by a greedy friend of his)–and this after four years of ‘friendship’!
When his scam was discovered he apologized profusely and begged forgiveness. But I cut him off and said the friendship was over. We had no contact for about fours years. This past December we did visit again but the dynamics were quite different, to say the least. So my advice to you is not just theory and rumor. Poverty and sex make poor bedfellows, and ‘mature’ gays with money can never forget that, although many do.
You said "I firmly believe it’s different" with Mr Bulgaria, and I believe you believe that’s so, but it is essentially not. The components are the same: youth, beauty, sex, age, vulnerability, money, real and pretended passion… As I said, you know all this and it’s your choice. If you can play with these ingredients and still protect yourself, go for it. But if you get serious and invest your heart and soul I fear for you. And of course you are not the only one: my young Thai friend (now 37), when I saw him last, had managed to get a Norwegian to marry him and now they both live in Norway. I recall his words: "It’s my last chance. I must do this for my future and my mother " (live in Norway and make sufficient money so his frail mother can stop working in a factory). He didn’t say anything about love.
I suggest you find a 50 year-old Norwegian from Oslo with a good job! Makes life and love easier
6th March 2008 – PinkNews
Call for action against bogus AIDS cures
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
A leading human rights group has called on the United Nations to act against the proliferation of unproven treatments for AIDS. An article published in the peer-reviewed journal Globalisation and Health, Human Rights Watch cited examples of the promotion of these remedies in countries as diverse as Zambia, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand, India, and Zimbabwe.
Human Rights Watch says the UN and its member states are failing to address serious threats to life and health posed by the promotion of unproven AIDS ‘cures’ and by counterfeit antiretroviral drugs. "Fake cures have been promoted since AIDS was first identified," said Joseph Amon, HIV/AIDS programme director at Human Rights Watch and author of the article. "In the era of expanded antiretroviral treatment programmes, the failure of governments to monitor these false claims and ensure accurate information about life-saving antiretroviral drugs undermines global efforts to fight AIDS."
In Gambia in February 2007 President Yahya Jammeh claimed to have developed a herbal cure for AIDS that was effective in three days if people taking the treatment discontinued taking antiretroviral drugs and refrained from alcohol, caffeine, and sex. Following the announcement, Gambian journalists who criticised the so-called cure were fired, and the UN resident coordinator in Gambia, Fadzai Gwaradzimba, was permanently expelled for asking for scientific proof of the treatment’s effectiveness. Last week the Gambian government announced with much fanfare that Jammeh had been awarded an honorary degree in Herbal and Homeopathic medicine by the Brussels-based Jean Monnet European University. In accepting the degree, Jammeh announced that he had discovered cures for obesity and impotence, adding to his previously declared ‘cures’ for infertility, diabetes, and asthma.
Also in 2007, the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announced the discovery of IMOD (an abbreviation for immuno-modulator drug), a herbal AIDS treatment made from seven local Iranian herbs. The government has promoted the drug as a "therapeutic vaccine" and as the "first choice" for treatment in resource-constrained developing countries. The President’s Office for Technology Cooperation has also promoted the remedy and sought partners for joint marketing, clinical trials, and manufacturing. According to news reports in November 2007, the Iranian Minister of Health and Medical Education stated that all patients with advanced HIV disease – more than 1,500 overall – would be treated with IMOD.
"Countries are gambling with the lives of people living with HIV by promoting unproven AIDS remedies,” said Mr Amon. "The UN should condemn this practice and work with governments and civil society groups to ensure that effective AIDS treatment and information about it are provided."
May 19, 2008 – PinkNews
Gambia’s President declares war on gay community
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face "serious consequences," the President of Gambia said on Thursday. President Yahya Jammeh turned on homosexuals and foreigners in an address at a victory celebration rally in Tallinding. The Daily Observer reported that the President had issued: "An ultimatum to homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals, to leave The Gambia or face serious consequences if caught. The President equally warned all those who harbour such individuals to kick them out of their compounds, noting that a mass patrol will be conducted on the instructions of the IGP and the director of the Gambia Immigration Department to weed bad elements in society. Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful." he said. " We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country."
" He stated that a law is in place regarding this unlawful acts tougher than the Iranian laws and warned those involve in this infamous activities to desist from them." President Jammeh also claimed that foreigners are taking the benefits of investment and "all stores belonging to Gambians and rented to forigners would be seized."
Gambia, a mostly Muslim country of 1.7 million people, punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison. A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994. Last year he horrified scientists by announcing that he had developed a "miracle cure" for HIV/AIDS. Hundreds of Gambians lined up to be "cured" by President Jammeh, who treats his patients by rubbing a mysterious herbal paste into their ribcages and then instructing them to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas. The therapy is administered repeatedly over several weeks. According to Mr Jammeh, AIDS sufferers are cured within "three to thirty days."
The President announced his alleged cure in January to a gathering of perplexed foreign diplomats. "Whatever you do there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof," he said. "Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It is a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will." Government radio and TV addresses publicised the treatment, which Jammeh provides for free. It has the backing of the Gambian Health Ministry. Mr Jammeh refuses to disclose the ingredients of his herbal concoction, saying only that the treatment uses seven plants – "three of which are not from Gambia". His official website claims that patients have experienced a "marked improvement" in their health as a result of the treatment and scoffs at critics who dispute its efficac.
Pan Africa ILGA Condems the Homophobic Remarks and Orders Made by President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia
Pan Africa ILGA condemns the statements made by President Yahya Jammeh against gay people in Gambia.
Mr. Jammeh has openly called for direct discrimination against gay people; those in Gambia as well as visitors to Gambia. He has also referred to gay people as ‘dirty’, yet he has admitted that Gambia has high regards for positive cultural and religious practices. In deed, is it not a positive African cultural trait to be welcoming to those in our society, to show love and understanding to those around us? Untrue stereotypes have in the past been used to deny vulnerable groups their rights. For example, before the women’s rights movement, women were viewed as second class citizens and subordinate to men and were denied education, property and employment. In the same way, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex(LGBTI) individuals are viewed as less than human and have their human rights violated on a daily basis with impunity. Mr Jammeh has expressed that homosexuality is ‘sinful and immoral’. Personal beliefs such as his are no excuse or justification for targeting and denying the rights of a section of society.
The president, as a leader, should not allow his own personal beliefs to get in the way of his duty to uphold and secure the human rights of his citizens. The excuses given are that homosexuality is unAfrican, unnatural, against religious beliefs. This stubborn bigotry is insisted upon even where the facts clearly contradict these superstitions. In deed, homosexuality in Africa has existed even before the colonialists arrived, and most religions preach peace and not torture. Religions have changed some of their attitudes about women over time, and more religious discourse is focusing on tolerance of minorities. What is required of everyone is tolerance.
Mr. Jammeh’s statements can also be interpreted as incitement and will ultimately lead to all types of violence against Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals. Torture, violence and intolerance are not what make a civilized community: it is tolerance and respect for individual human rights that do. PAI calls for Mr. Yahya Jammeh to retract the statements that he has made targeting LGBTI individuals. Further, PAI calls for Mr. Jammeh to publicly condemn any violence towards LGBTI individuals in Gambia, and take stern action against any person who violates LGBTI rights. LGBTI rights are human rights and they must be respected just like women’s rights, children’s rights and other minority rights.
Pan Afrique ILGA condamne les remarques homophobes et ordonnances rendues par le président Yahya Jammeh de la Gambie
Pan Afrique ILGA condamne les déclarations faites par le Président Yahya Jammeh contre les homosexuels en Gambie.
M. Jammeh a ouvertement appelé à la discrimination directe contre les homosexuels, ceux en Gambie ainsi que les visiteurs en Gambie. Il a également évoqué les homosexuels comme «sale», mais il a admis que la Gambie est élevé pour ce qui est positif pratiques culturelles et religieuses. En effet, est-il pas un trait culturel africain d’accueillir à ceux qui sont dans notre société, de faire preuve d’amour et de compréhension à ceux qui nous entourent?
Faux stéréotypes ont dans le passé été utilisée pour priver les groupes vulnérables de leurs droits. Par exemple, avant les femmes du mouvement des droits, les femmes étaient considérées comme des citoyens de seconde classe et subordonnées aux hommes et se sont vu refuser l’éducation, la propriété et de l’emploi. De la même manière, Lesbian Gay Bisexual transgenres et intersexué (LGBTI) les individus sont considérés comme des moins que l’alimentation humaine et leur ont violé les droits de l’homme sur une base quotidienne en toute impunité. M. Jammeh a fait savoir que l’homosexualité est «péché et immoral». Convictions personnelles comme son sont pas une excuse ou une justification pour le ciblage et nier les droits d’une partie de la société.
Le président, en tant que leader, ne devrait pas permettre que son convictions personnelles de prendre le chemin de son devoir de faire respecter et garantir les droits fondamentaux de ses citoyens. Les excuses invoquées sont que l’homosexualité est unAfrican, contre nature, contre les croyances religieuses. Ce fanatisme est têtu insisté sur même si les faits sont en contradiction flagrante avec ces superstitions. En effet, l’homosexualité en Afrique a existé avant même les colons sont arrivés, et la plupart des religions prêchent la paix et non la torture. Les religions ont changé certaines de leurs attitudes à l’égard des femmes au fil du temps, et plus le discours religieux met l’accent sur la tolérance des minorités. Ce qui est requis de tout le monde est la tolérance.
M. Jammeh déclarations peuvent également être interprété comme une incitation en fin de compte, à tous les types de violence à l’égard des lesbiennes Gay transsexuels et bisexuels intersexué (LGBTI) personnes. La torture, la violence et l’intolérance ne sont pas ce qui fait une communauté civilisée: c’est la tolérance et le respect des droits de l’homme qui le font.
PAI demande de M. Yahya Jammeh à revenir sur les déclarations qu’il a formulées au ciblage des personnes LGBTI. En outre, PAI demande à M. Jammeh à condamner publiquement toute violence à l’égard des LGBTI personnes en Gambie, arrière et de prendre des mesures contre toute personne qui viole les droits LGBTI. LGBTI droits de l’homme et elles doivent être respectées tout comme les droits des femmes, les droits de l’enfant et d’autres les droits des minorités.
*Pan Afrique ILGA est autonome réseau régional africain de l’International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Entre autres objectifs, PAI et les lobbies défenseurs des droits des lesbiennes Gay transsexuels et bisexuels intersexué (LGBTI) personnes en Afrique
*Pan Africa ILGA is the autonomous African regional network of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Among other objectives, PAI advocates and lobbies for the rights of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) individuals in Africa.
June 2, 2008 – The International Herald Tribune
Gambia arrests two Spanish men for "homosexual proposals"
Banjul, Gambia (AP) – Authorities in Gambia have arrested two Spanish men for allegedly making "homosexual proposals" to taxi drivers, police said Monday. The arrests come less than three weeks after Gambia’s president ordered homosexuals to leave the West African country and threatened in a nationally televised speech to "cut off the head" of anyone discovered to be gay. The Spanish nationals were taken into custody Friday after the taxi drivers reported being solicited by them, police spokesman Sulayman Secka said. He declined to give further details on the incident or say when the men might be released. "They are helping the police in their investigation," Secka said.
Homosexual sex is illegal in Gambia, where those convicted of consensual homosexual acts face jail terms of up to 14 years. Controversy over homosexuality has been growing across Africa in recent years, with many countries toughening laws prohibiting homosexuality even as South Africa legalized gay marriage. In his speech last month, President Yahya Jammeh also threatened to close down hotels that rent rooms to gays. "We are in a Muslim-dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country," he said. Jammeh’s statements were condemned by international gay rights activists but welcomed by Gambia’s Supreme Islamic Council, which said Jammeh had taken a "principled stand."
June 3, 2008 – PinkNews
UK updates travel advice for the Gambia
by Tony Grew
British tourists in the Gambia are being advised that the government there is "actively enforcing" laws against gay people. A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk that their advice was updated today. Two Spanish men have been taken into custody by police in the Gambia after being accused of trying to solicit sex from male taxi drivers. The EU nationals were arrested on Friday after complaints from the drivers and remain in prison. A police spokesman said they were "helping in the investigation."
Last month the President of Gambia said gay men and lesbians must leave the country within 24 hours or face "serious consequences." "Foreign visitors to the Gambia need to carry an ID with them at all times," the FCO guidance reads. "Although there are no laws specifically covering homosexuality in the Gambia, the Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has, or attempts to have, "carnal knowledge" of any person "against the order of nature" is guilty of a felony and could face imprisonment. The Gambian courts may interpret homosexual acts as falling under this part of the Code. The Code also states that gross indecency between men, whether in public or private, is a felony and anyone committing this felony could face imprisonment. Any private citizen has the power of arrest for these offences. We have received reports that the police are actively enforcing this Code. There are no current reports of any attacks on homosexuals. There are no gay clubs in the Gambia."
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised gay citizens not to disclose their sexual orientation if they visit the Gambia. The mostly Muslim nation of 1.7 million people punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison. A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994. According to the Department for International Development, tourism is the second largest employer and is the main foreign exchange earner in the Gambia. British companies are heavily promoting the Gambia as a welcoming destination.
The country, notorious for "sun, sea and sex" holidays, with affluent Western women flocking to the beach resorts to have sex with local men, hopes to reposition itself as a family destination. In 2004 the annual GDP growth rate was 8.3% but poverty remains high with an estimated 59% of the population living on less than one dollar a day. Some 75-80% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. The UK is one of the few bilateral donors to have a country office, and has a development programme allocation of £3 million for 2007-08. Britain also provides development assistance to The Gambia through contributions to multilateral organisations, such as the European Union, World Bank and United Nations agencies.
June 3, 2008 – PinkNews
Advice for gays considering a holiday in the Gambia – try Greece
by Adam Lake
With controversy growing over the Gambian government’s treatment of homosexuals, Pinknews.co.uk’s Adam Lake tries to book a holiday there. Gambia is fast becoming a popular holiday destination among British holiday goers. Log onto any large travel agency website and it won’t be long before your blitzed with offers of a ‘great deal’ on a holiday in the tiny West African country. But with the news this week of two Spanish tourists being arrested for "gay behaviour," is it safe for LGBT tourists to travel to the area?
Wanting to get my facts straight from the outset, my first port of call was, naturally, the Gambian High Commission in London. After some unsuccessful attempts at PinkNews.co.uk I finally got through to somebody by pretending to be a tourist. Posing as a gay man who wishes to spend a peaceful summer break with his partner, the representative from the Gambian high commission refused to give advice on our personal safety. Despite being a major news story in national and international media the member of staff denied any knowledge of the Gambian President’s recent threat that gays would face "serious consequences" if they did not leave the country. The representative instructed us to call the British High Commission in Gambia. As reported on PinkNews.co.uk earlier today, the Foreign Office has updated its advice to British citizens travelling to the Gambia. They warn that the authorities appear to be enforcing colonial-era penal codes concerned with "carnal knowledge" that goes against the "order of nature." As the two gay Spanish tourists accused of trying to chat up taxi drivers know all too well.
If you google the Gambia the first two addresses are for two of Britain’s biggest travel agencies: ThomasCook.com and Lastminute.com. What would their advice be to the would be gay couple looking to visit? I call ThomasCook first and I am quickly put through to a member of the sales team for African holidays. Although not committing to any particular advice he advised me to check with a trip adviser website and also to ring the Gambian High Commission. He also added that if we were to book into a large hotel then we should experience no problem whatsoever but in smaller, more rural areas we may run into trouble.
Concerned by the idea that LGBT travellers may find trouble in rural areas, I call British holiday company ‘The Gambia Experience.’ The lady who we spoke to was also uncertain about whether or not it would be a good idea to travel: "It’s really down to you to make that decision," she told me. She added that some of their main staff in the country are gay and that they haven’t reported any problems. She went on: "You have to be sensible about what your doing there, it would definitely be a good idea to be discreet about stuff. If you’re discreet then there’s no way they would know and you’re not going to get into any trouble." I was glad that they both advised me to check with official sources before booking.
With the Foreign and Commonwealth Office updating their website this week with a warning to LGBT travellers, the travel agents advice would hopefully lead most LGBT holidaymakers to reach the correct conclusion about visiting the country. My final call was to internet travel agency Lastminute.com. After a long day attempting to book a holiday to a destination that I already know I will be avoiding, my spirits are lifted when the phone is instantly picked up by a spritely northern woman: "I’ve got no idea about that darling but I’ll put you through to Darryl- he’s like yourself." Who could ask for anything more? Seconds later I am put through to Darryl who is, to my delight, very much like myself.
Darryl tells me what ThomasCook.com, The Gambia Experience and even what the Gambian High Commission told me- "I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that." What, however, separates Darryl from the other guys, and indeed from any other travel agent I have spoken to, is the fact that he promised to call his sister who lives in the Gambia and call me back in ten minutes with some info. While I wait for Darryl to call me back I ponder at how helpful it would be if High Commissions acted a bit more like travel agents. Five minutes later Darryl called me back full of facts and a bit of gossip.
"There is a problem there and I definitely would not go to the Gambia, especially with your partner. It’s illegal and they’ve thrown a couple of guys in prison for coming on to a taxi driver, which personally I don’t believe at all. If you are going on holiday with your partner I would suggest Greece or the Canaries, but of course you don’t have to go to a gay destination, it just might make you feel a bit more comfortable." Thanking Darryl for his help, and in my opinion he went beyond the call of duty on that score, he reassures me, "feel free to call our main booking line anytime, we’ll all very open with these sorts of things here."
If your’e wondering why I haven’t spoken to British High Commission in Gambia, as advised by the Gambian High Commission, it is because they are extremely hard to get hold of. There is however a link on there web page telling would-be LGBT tourists to be careful. So in order to obtain current and helpful advice about travelling to the Gambia I would advise going through a travel agent’s sister. It seems that the Gambian government has no problem is telling gays to ‘get out,’ but when rich Western tourists want to go and spend their money, they’re distinctly less strong with their language – or as we have seen here, silent. Without doubt the Gambia is a dangerous county for LGBT travellers to visit and the vast majority of trival agencies have no knowledge of this.
With misleading descriptions such as ‘some minor construction work yet to be completed’ and ‘beach just a short walk away’ the British public are used to travel agencies only mentioning the good stuff, and of course they will, they are selling a product after all. My fear is that LGBT holiday makers are not made aware of the dangers of travelling to the country and are drawn in by the flashy pictures and cheap deals. When people book a holiday they consider the sun, sea and sand. They rarely look into the political situation. The fact of the matter is, LGBT travellers who visit the Gambia they may not only find themselves having a horrid holiday, they may be putting their lives in danger. In my opinion travel agencies have a duty educate there staff about this and warn potential customers accordingly. Perhaps it’s about time holidays came with a health warning.
June 5, 2008 – The Guardian
Gambia releases Spaniards accused of soliciting sex
by Abdoulie John, Associated Press Writer
Banjul, Gambia (AP) – Two Spanish men detained in Gambia for allegedly propositioning taxi drivers for sex have been released after five days in jail, a Spanish official said Wednesday. The men were released late Tuesday and have left the West African country, said Nicola El Busto, an official with Spain’s embassy in Gambia. The Spaniards were arrested Friday after taxi drivers reported being solicited by them. Homosexual sex is illegal in Gambia, and those convicted of consensual homosexual acts face up to 14 years in prison. Gambian authorities could not be reached for comment.
Last month, Gambia’s president ordered gays to leave the country and threatened to “cut off the head” of anyone found to be gay. President Yahya Jammeh also threatened to close down hotels that rent rooms to gays. Controversy over homosexuality has been growing across Africa in recent years, with many countries toughening laws against homosexuality even as South Africa legalized gay marriage. Jammeh’s statements were condemned by international gay rights activists but welcomed by Gambia’s Supreme Islamic Council, which said Jammeh had taken a “principled stand.”
June 15, 2008 – PinkNews
EU may rebuke Gambian president over threats against gays
by Sophie Picheta
European Union member governments have prepared a statement in response to the President of Gambia’s recent threats to gay people. Graham Birse, the acting British high commissioner has said that EU states, under the Slovenian Presidency, are in discussion with the Gambian ministry of foreign affairs. A government representative told IRIN "we decided we should come up with a common message and we are all aligned with it. "Obviously we don’t agree with the President’s statements." they added.
Last month it was reported that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh turned on homosexuals and foreigners in an address at a victory celebration rally in Tallinding. The Daily Observer said the President had issued: "An ultimatum to homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals, to leave the Gambia or face serious consequences if caught." Government officials have denied he made any threatening comments. President Jammeh has in the past claimed that he can cure HIV/AIDS. Scott Long, Executive Director of the LGBT programme in the Human Rights Watch, told IRIN that the strongest leverage international organisations have is "to shame and embarrass the president." HRW reported that President Jammeh retracted his threat to kill gay and lesbian people, but has not the threat to expel them from the country.
"We are monitoring situation through contacts in-country to keep track of what the police and others are doing as a result of the statements, and we’re waiting to see the government’s next move." Long told IRIN. "If you can attack even these most marginalised people, it could set a precedent for attacking wider human rights." Gambia is a mostly Muslim nation of 1.7 million people, which punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison.
October 6, 2008 – The New York Times
Persecuted in Africa, Finding Refuge in New York
by KirkK Semple and Lydia Polgreen
Pape Mbaye gets a lot of attention. Even in jaded New York, people watch the way he walks (his style defines the word sashay) and scrutinize his outfits, which on a recent afternoon featured white, low-slung capris, a black purse, eyeliner and diamond-studded jewelry. And he likes it. “I’m fabulous,” he said. “I feel good.” Mr. Mbaye, 24, is an entertainer from Dakar, Senegal, known there for his dancing, singing and storytelling. But while his flamboyance may be celebrated in New York, he attracted the wrong kind of attention in West Africa this year, and it nearly cost him his life.
In February, a Senegalese magazine published photographs of what was reported to be an underground gay marriage and said that Mr. Mbaye, who appeared in the photos and is gay himself, had organized the event. In the ensuing six months, Mr. Mbaye said, he was harassed by the police, attacked by armed mobs, driven from his home, maligned in the national media and forced to live on the run across West Africa. In July, the United States government gave him refugee status, one of the rare instances when such protection has been granted to a foreigner facing persecution based on sexual orientation. A month later, Mr. Mbaye arrived in New York, eventually moving into a small furnished room in the Bronx that rents for $150 per week. It has a bed, air-conditioner, television, cat and pink walls.
“There’s security, there’s independence, there’s peace,” he said of his new country. But even as he has begun looking for work, with the help of a few Senegalese immigrants he knows from Dakar, Mr. Mbaye is largely avoiding the mainstream Senegalese community, fearing that the same prejudices that drove him out of Africa may dog him here. One recent evening, while visiting close family friends from Dakar who live in Harlem, he recalled a shopping trip to 116th Street, where many Senegalese work and live. There, he said, he was harassed by a Senegalese man who ridiculed Mr. Mbaye’s outfit and threatened him.
“He said, ‘If you were in Senegal, I would kill you,’ ” Mr. Mbaye said, gesturing with his arms, his voice rising. “I have my freedom now, and that man wanted to take it.” The United States does not track how often it grants refuge to people fleeing anti-gay persecution. But Christopher Nugent, an immigration lawyer with Holland & Knight, a Washington law firm where he is a senior pro bono counsel specializing in refugee and asylum cases, said that in the past decade he has heard of only a handful.
The government also does not track the number of persecuted gay men and lesbians who are granted asylum, but experts in the field say the number is higher than those granted refugee status. (Asylum is granted to people already in the United States, while people outside the country must seek refugee status.) Mr. Mbaye’s case was exceptional because his fame made his situation particularly perilous, said Mr. Nugent, who represented Mr. Mbaye in his petition. “He was vilified in the Senegalese media as being the face of the sinful homosexual, and he had scars to show,” he said.
For the past few years, anti-gay hysteria has been sweeping across swaths of Africa, fueled by sensationalist media reports of open homosexuality among public figures and sustained by deep and abiding taboos that have made even the most hateful speech about gays not just acceptable but almost required. Gay men and women have recently been arrested in Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, among other countries. “In most countries there is poverty and instability, and usually homosexuality is used as a way of shifting the attention from the actual problem to this thing that is not really the problem but can distract the public,” said Joel Nana, who is from Cameroon and who works for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Pape Mbaye (pronounced POP mm-BYE) had been living the Senegalese version of the high life for some time. He worked principally as a griot — a singer and storyteller invited to weddings, birthday parties and other events to perform traditional songs, dance and tell stories. By West African standards, it earned him a good living. He had performed at parties for wealthy and famous Senegalese, had two cars and a driver, an overflowing wardrobe and an apartment in a fashionable neighborhood decked out with rococo gold-leaf-encrusted furniture. Mr. Mbaye, who said he had known he was gay from a young age, seldom tried to hide his sexuality, often wearing makeup and jewelry in public.
Though Senegal passed an antisodomy law in 1965 that forbids “an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex,” homosexuality has traditionally been quietly tolerated in Senegal, particularly among the creative class of musicians and artists that is so central to Senegalese culture. But the publication of the gay wedding photos on Feb. 1 dovetailed with a recent surge in anti-gay sentiment, a trend partly fueled by some conservative Islamic leaders, sending Mr. Mbaye on his harrowing odyssey.
On the morning after the article’s publication, Mr. Mbaye and several gay friends were arrested by the police, who held them for four days. During his detention, Mr. Mbaye said, he was questioned about his participation in the marriage ceremony, which he asserted was a party, not a wedding. Under diplomatic pressure from the Netherlands and Denmark, the Senegalese authorities released Mr. Mbaye and his friends. The singer said the police told him and his friends that they should go into hiding. “The police cannot guarantee your security because the entire society will be out to get you,” a police official said, according to testimony that Mr. Mbaye would later give to Human Rights Watch.
While he was in detention, his apartment was looted and anti-gay graffiti was scrawled on the wall of the building, he said. He and several gay friends fled to Ziguinchor in south Senegal, but in mid-February, a mob wielding broken bottles, forks and other weapons stormed the house and beat them, Mr. Mbaye said. Mr. Mbaye spent the next several weeks moving from one safe house to another before fleeing to Gambia on May 11. Several days later, President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia vowed to behead all homosexuals in his country. Mr. Mbaye immediately returned to Dakar.
But he was discovered and chased by a crowd, as local news media reported his return. He sought sanctuary at the offices of Raddho, a human rights organization based in Dakar, which put him in the care of Human Rights Watch. “I am like a hunted animal,” Mr. Mbaye said during an interview while he hid out in a Dakar hotel. Human Rights Watch helped Mr. Mbaye assemble his refugee application and get to Ghana, where he sought help from the American Embassy in Accra, the country’s capital.
While in Ghana, Mr. Mbaye said, he was attacked again, this time by knife-wielding Senegalese expatriates who had discovered he was there. The assault, which left him with wounds, probably accelerated the review process for his application, Mr. Nugent said. (Confidentiality regulations forbid United States immigration officials from discussing the case.) Mr. Mbaye received his refugee status on July 31, and he arrived at Kennedy Airport on Aug. 18 carrying several suitcases and a Chanel handbag. A few weeks later, he received his Social Security card and work authorization permit. He hopes to resume his career, though he acknowledges that until he improves his English, he will have to perform in French and Wolof, an African language. He also dreams of getting a modeling contract.
In the meantime, he said, he will do just about anything. “I would like a job in a restaurant or a hotel or a club or in perfume or in makeup,” he said. “But no bricklaying.” Mr. Nugent has been posting notices on Internet mailing lists serving the gay community in search of sponsors to help Mr. Mbaye find work, including in gay nightclubs. Mr. Mbaye seems undaunted. At his friends’ home in Harlem, he celebrated his newfound freedom. “I want to live with the gays!” he said as his hosts laughed. “Pape Mbaye is American!”
January 6, 2009 – PinkNews
Dutchman fined for gay "indecency" in Gambia
by Tony Grew
A 79-year-old man from the Netherlands has been found guilty of indecency with several Gambian men. A court in Banjul sentenced Frank Boers to pay 100,000 Gambian dalasis (£2,500) in lieu of a two year prison sentence, Afrik.com reports. Mr Boers was arrested at the city’s international airport on December 23rd when officials found he was in possession of nude pictures of himself and some Gambian men and other pornography.
Gambia, a mostly Muslim country of 1.7 million people, punishes homosexual acts, even in private, with up to seven years in prison. A former British colony, the country has been ruled by President Jammeh since a bloodless coup in 1994. According to the Department for International Development, tourism is the second largest employer and is the main foreign exchange earner in the Gambia. Mr Boers conviction follows the President’s pledge to "crack down" on gay people in the country. President Yahya Jammeh turned on homosexuals and foreigners in an address at a victory celebration rally in Tallinding in May.
The Daily Observer reported that the President had issued: "An ultimatum to homosexuals, drug dealers, thieves and other criminals, to leave the Gambia or face serious consequences if caught. Any hotel, lodge or motel that lodges this kind of individuals will be closed down, because this act is unlawful." he said. We are in a Muslim dominated country and I will not and shall never accept such individuals in this country."
Last year two Spanish tourists arrested in the Gambia for allegedly trying to solicit gay sex from taxi drivers were released. Early reports indicated that Juan Monpserratrusau, 54, and Pere Joan, 56, were to appear in court charged with attempting to commit an "unnatural offence," contrary to Section 124 of the country’s Criminal Code. However, it is thought the Spanish government intervened. In the wake of their arrests the Foreign Office updated its guidance for British visitors.
"Although there are no laws specifically covering homosexuality in the Gambia, the Gambian Criminal Code states that any person who has, or attempts to have, "carnal knowledge" of any person "against the order of nature" is guilty of a felony and could face imprisonment. The Gambian courts may interpret homosexual acts as falling under this part of the Code. The Code also states that gross indecency between men, whether in public or private, is a felony and anyone committing this felony could face imprisonment. We have received reports that the police are actively enforcing this Code."
In 2006 President Yammeh horrified scientists by announcing that he had developed a "miracle cure" for HIV/AIDS. Hundreds of Gambians lined up to be "treated" by the head of state, who treats his patients by rubbing a mysterious herbal paste into their ribcages and then instructing them to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas. The therapy is administered repeatedly over several weeks. According to Mr Jammeh, AIDS sufferers are cured within "three to thirty days."
* EU may rebuke Gambian president over threats against gays
* Advice for gays considering a holiday in the Gambia – try Greece
* Gambia’s President declares war on gay community
* Call for action against bogus AIDS cures
May 15, 2009 – Behind The Mask
LGBTI Activists Optimistic About Progay Gay Resolution
by Mongezi Mhlongo (BTM Reporter)
Gambia – African LGBTI human rights defenders attending the 45th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) currently underway in Banjul, Gambia, are optimistic that a resolution aimed at ending all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa will be adopted by the African Commission. Yesterday, 14 May, the panel presented the resolution which has been continuously barred during the preceding ordinary sessions.
The resolution calls on the African Commission to pass a resolution that condemns violence and impunity on the situation of LGBTI people in Africa. This resolution was first adopted by the NGO Forum at the 43rd Ordinary Session held in Swaziland but was blocked at the next session held in Nigeria. According to Eunice Namungwe of the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), representation on LGBTI issues was quite good and strong, even though the delegation had to change its tune in order to secure presentation.
“We have basically replaced the language of LGBTI with sexual orientation and gender identity and included the clause on sexual health, HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care for WSW and MSM.” Following continued pressure by LGBTI activists, the resolution was adopted by the NGO Forum. The delegation was also granted presentation through the NGO Forum which contained a formal panel on the LGBTI agenda.
“Everyone did their bit to make this panel a success and it created such debate and opened up dialogue and deepened awareness on sexual orientation and gender identity in Africa”, Namungwe said. She added “everyone was clear that as human rights defenders in Africa we can no longer be ignored. Admittedly, lots of work still needs to be done to work with the NGO Forum on the issue.” Furthermore the closure of the NGO Forum saw the launch of a book produced by People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA), entitled Breaking The Silence: Journey To Recovery which documents the experiences of lesbian, bisexual and trans women.
“It is an important resource for the African Commission and our allies at the NGO Forum to understand and be more aware of what we are busy with in our work” said Numugwe. The session continues until the 22 May. The head office of the ACHPR is in Banjul, Gambia the same country whose Criminal Code, article 144, indicates that any same sex act is punishable with up to 14 years. The current president, Yahya Jammeh shocked the world last year when he suggested that homosexuals should be beheaded.
04 June 2009 – Behind The Mask
Another Blow For Gambian Homosexuals
by Mongezi Mhlongo (BTM Reporter)
Gambia – President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has once again denounced homosexuality at a recent tour in Banjul, suggesting that the practice will not be tolerated in that country. The Gambian President made these remarks at the end of his People’s Tour held in Banjul at the Arch 22nd, an arch built to mark the rise of President Jammeh and his victory which put an end to the democratically elected government in Gambia in 1996. This statement comes after the Jammeh declared war against homosexuals in May last year, threatening to behead all homosexuals in that country.
Jammeh retracted the execution statement but stood by his threat to hunt down and expel homosexuals found in Gambia.
www.thepatrioticvanguard.com reported that the Jammeh said "a man should marry a woman but man and man should never marry each other." Furthermore Jammeh said people should not "entertain homosexuals in their compounds" and not "allow them to use money on them or bribe them to carry out their lifestyle."
Article 144 of Gambia’s Criminal Code punishes same-sex acts with up to 14 years imprisonment. Previously this law only applied to males but in 2005 was amended to apply to women as well. Gambia has been in the spotlight recently for its notorious practices that continue to undermine basic human rights. Amnesty International’s report of 2009 has revealed that by the end of last year there were 15 people on death row in Gambia facing different crimes.
According to the report the National Assembly had to carry out a constitutional review of the death penalty within a period of10 years with a view to abolish it, but failed to carry out this review. Considering the persecutions that have transpired in that country, under the leadership of militant Jammeh, and his continuous attacks on homosexuality, the future of LGBTI community in that country remains indefinite.
Gambia: Action Alert – Condemn Attacks on the Right to Housing
President Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh of the Gambia has called on citizens of this West African nation to deny housing to "homosexuals," making LGBT people targets for discrimination and violence yet again. IGLHRC believes that his statements violate the rights to freedom from discrimination, to adequate housing, to dignity, and to security.
Denial of Housing to LGBT People in the Gambia
On May 23, 2009, President Jammeh urged party members of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), who represent the majority in the country’s National Assembly, not to rent or allow homosexuals to stay in their compounds. The statement was made at a monument commemorating the 1994 coup that brought Jammeh, a former lieutenant in the Gambian army, into power. Last year, President Jammeh publicly denounced homosexuality and gave LGBT people in Gambia an ultimatum to leave the country by stating that he would "cut of the head" of anyone believed to be homosexual discovered in Gambia. He also warned Gambian hotel owners not to rent rooms to homosexuals.
The right to adequate housing is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and articulated in the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. Additionally, the rights to dignity and security, components of the right to adequate housing, are guaranteed under the Gambian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. States may not permit forced evictions and must ensure nondiscrimination in access to adequate housing for all of its citizens.
To find out more information about housing discrimination for LGBT people worldwide, click here. Under President Jammeh, the State has contributed to and committed a pattern of human rights violations against political opponents of Jammeh, human rights defenders, and others. The government’s actions have strongly impacted the right to freedom of expression, creating a particularly hostile environment for journalists and LGBT people. For more information on human rights and LGBT people in the Gambia, click here.
IGLHRC urges you to send a letter to President Jammeh asking him to repudiate his statement calling for the expulsion of LGBT people from their homes. Your letter will promote human rights in the Gambia by informing the President and other Gambian officials of their legal duty to prevent forced evictions of LGBT people, and by expressing international concern that the government is failing to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of all Gambians.
Click here to send your message to President Jammeh and other officials.
Please send your letter to:
H.E. Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh
President of the Republic of The Gambia
Address: Private Mail Bag State House, Banjul, The Gambia
CC: H.E. Vice President Aja Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy
Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia
Address: Private Mail Bag State House, Banjul, The Gambia
Hon. Marie Saine Firdaus?
Attorney General and Secretary of State for Justice?
Address: Private Mail Bag State House, Banjul, The Gambia
Hon. Ousman Sonko
Secretary of State for the Interior
Address: Private Mail Bag State House, Banjul, The Gambia
Mrs. Neneh Macdoual-Gaye
Embassy of the Gambia
Fax: +1 202 785 1430
Address: 1424 K Street NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20005
Mr. Barry Wells
Fax: +220 439 2475
Address: Kairaba Avenue, Fajara?P.M.B.19, Banjul, The Gambia
Mr. Tamsir Jallow
Permanent Mission of the Republic of The Gambia to the United Nations
Fax: +1 212 856 9820
Address: 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400F New York, NY 10017
Please also send a copy of your letter to:
IGLHRC – E-mail: Communicationsemail@example.com
Dr. Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh, President of the Republic of the Gambia
Private Mail Bag
Banjul, The Gambia
I ask you to repudiate your statement of May 23, 2009, encouraging people not to rent or allow homosexuals to stay in their compounds. This statement is a direct violation of the right to housing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Gambia in violation of Gambian, regional, and international law. It impermissibly discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, subjugating LGBT people to inadequate living conditions, and increasing their vulnerability to physical, sexual violence, and HIV/AIDS. I also call on you to provide redress to those who have been injured by it, and to prevent future violations of the rights to non-discrimination and adequate housing of LGBT people.
The right to adequate housing is guaranteed under Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Article 11 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and articulated in Principle 15 of the Yogyakarta Principles on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity. Furthermore, the rights to dignity and security, components of the right to adequate housing, are guaranteed under Articles 28(1), 31(1), 37(8) and 19(1) of the Gambian Constitution and Articles 5 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) General Comment No. 4 describes the right to adequate housing as "the right to live somewhere in security, peace, and dignity," and states that individual are entitled to adequate housing without discrimination. General Comment No. 7 on forced evictions requires States to refrain from forced evictions, to enforce the law against third parties who forcibly evict and to take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination. General Comment No. 20 states that sexual orientation and gender identity is a prohibited ground of discrimination under ICESCR and thus State Parties, including the Gambia, may not discriminate or forcibly evict people on these bases. Moreover, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing urges States to protect all persons from forced evictions and ensure non-discriminatory access to adequate housing for persons belonging to minorities.
The right to adequate housing additionally implicates the rights to dignity, food, water, health, education, work, security of the person, security of the home, freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.
I ask you to repudiate your statement and protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the future. To respect and protect the rights of all Gambians, the government must ensure that no one-including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people-faces discrimination. Moreover, to ensure these rights, the government must create an environment where the rights to life, dignity, security, and freedom of expression are respected, protecting the lives and work of human rights defenders and journalists.
CC: Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy, Vice President of the Republic of the Gambia
Hon. Marie Saine Firdaus, Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Hon. Ousman Sonko, Secretary of State for the Interior
Mrs. Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, Ambassador of the Embassy of the Gambia
Mr. Barry Wells, Ambassador of the U.S. Embassy Banjul
Mr. Tamsir Jallow, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of The Gambia to the UN
September 21, 2009 – The Los Angeles Times
Doctor practices what his faith preaches
Cedars-Sinai cardiologist Dr. Lawrence Czer makes regular trips to Africa with his Christian church to help the needy by providing free medical care.
by Carla Hall
On his medical missions to Africa, Dr. Lawrence Czer has dealt with poverty, lack of electricity, bad accommodations — and military checkpoints. In Sierra Leone, Czer and his team were sometimes stopped by rifle-toting soldiers who simply wouldn’t let them through.
"They’ll just have you stand there and you’ll see other people going through," Czer said. The medical team refused to give the soldiers any money. All they could do was try to cajole them. "Or shame them," the doctor said. "We tell them, ‘Listen, we’re giving free medical care to your people. Now, what are you doing holding us up from doing that?’ " It worked. For more than a decade, Czer, an otherwise genteel, soft-spoken cardiologist, has been a key part of the medical teams organized and sent by his church, the Lighthouse Church of Santa Monica, to some of the poorest, most war-ravaged countries in Africa. The trips, which began with a mission to Gambia in 1998, are now made at least twice a year.
The heart is the doctor’s specialty. Czer, pronounced like "Caesar," is medical director of the heart transplant program at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. But in Africa, he functions more like an overburdened general practitioner, seeing up to 100 people a day with maladies that include broken bones, malaria, parasites, serious burns and high blood pressure. Czer was raised Catholic in the San Fernando Valley and educated by nuns and brothers. As an adult he joined the Protestant evangelical Lighthouse Church, an outpost of the Foursquare denomination. He and his wife were drawn to the church’s search for a "practical Christianity," he said. And that is what motivates him to make the trips to Africa.
"We don’t stay in great hotels. We’re with the people. We don’t exclude anybody. We see the poorest of the poor. We lay hands on people. We touch people. We tell them we love them," he said. "We think that’s what, probably, Jesus would do if he were walking the earth at this point."
In addition to Gambia and Sierra Leone, the church’s medical expeditions have traveled to Burundi, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The fall mission next month — which Czer will probably not be on — travels back to Gambia. The church’s bigger spring trip is often to Sierra Leone, where medical team members have set up their temporary clinics in several towns. Beyond medical services, the church has provided expertise and raised funds to build schools, churches and water projects.
The medical teams make it a point to revisit communities. "We like to know the people, establish relationships, get to know the country," said Czer, 58, sitting in his small office at Cedars. His desk is stacked with papers. Nearby is a framed photo of his seven children, all wearing airy white. His older children, as well as his wife, Kari, a kindergarten teacher, have at times accompanied him on his trips.
"Lawrence is the most understated guy you will ever meet," said Robert Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician, fellow Lighthouse Church member and medical coordinator of the Africa visits. Czer is the counterpart, for adult patients, to Hamilton and other pediatricians on the trips, where often half those served are children. "He’s so good at African medicine," Hamilton said. "He provides a tremendous ballast for the trips."
The church missions focus on places where medical help is most needed. Hamilton called the needs of post-war Sierra Leone "mind boggling." "When you go to Africa, you kind of grow up in some ways: ‘Oh, this is what the world is like,’ " said Hamilton, 56. But they also specifically choose places where there are Christian churches to help the teams set up, explain the lay of the land and advise on potential dangers.
Many of the people in the countries they visit are Muslims or followers of traditional African religions. That stops the medical missionaries neither from treating them nor from teaching them about Christianity — though not necessarily simultaneously. "What we’re trying to do is demonstrate Christianity," said Czer. "We’re not actively proselytizing. Our job is to bring dignity — and let the local pastor do the rest."
Rob Scribner, the pastor of Czer’s church, generally does not go along on the medical missions but makes trips at other times, during which he preaches to all comers. When he asks people if they want to be prayed for, they often readily agree, no matter their religion, he says. "They have so little, they have nothing. They’re thinking ‘Am I going to eat?’ We’ve been sending rice for years to our churches so we could feed people," Scribner said.
Hamilton estimates that each mission costs about $35,000 in medications. The participants, who volunteer their time, generally pay for their own airfare and lodging. The church picks up the cost of medicines and supplies, holding fundraisers to help. A recently opened thrift store (at 1727 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica) provides some funds as well. As a young couple, Czer and his wife, Kari, who was raised Greek Orthodox, "were seeking a better way to see what God was saying," he said. He tried her religion but "I just could not understand the liturgy," he said.
Now married 30 years, the couple found in the Lighthouse Church more emphasis on reading the Bible and less on the "ritual and the big buildings" of their previous churches, Czer said. He misses some of those rituals. But Czer said of the Lighthouse Church, "For what we were going through at the time, it really addressed our needs." They joined the church more than 20 years ago.
"I wouldn’t be doing this, probably, if it weren’t for reading the Bible and trying to understand what God wants us to do," Czer said of his medical forays to Africa. "I wouldn’t have that depth of understanding."
25 September 2009 – FIDH.org
Human rights defenders threatened with death by President
Front Line and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), strongly condemn the statement made by Gambian President Jammeh on 21 September 2009 threatening human rights defenders with death.
Appearing on state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), President Jammeh publicly threatened to kill human rights defenders, together with anyone who sought to ’destabilise’ the country. “What I want to make very clear to everybody and those so-called human rights campaigners is that I will never allow anyone to destabilise this country. […] We are not going to condone people posing as human rights defenders to the detriment of the country. If you are affiliated with any human rights group, be rest assured that your security, and personal safety would not be guaranteed by my Government. We are ready to kill saboteurs”, President Jammeh stated.
In his address, President Jammeh also claimed that he was aware of human rights defenders being used to tarnish the image of his government and added that ”troublemakers [should] keep away from the country”. He warned that cooperating with human rights groups was no guarantee of protection: "Those who want to collaborate and listen to those so-called human rights campaigners and think that they will be defended by them are fooling themselves".
The explicit and direct death threats made by the Gambian president against human rights defenders as well as any independent critical voice are unprecedented and signal that the state of the freedom of expression and the right to security in the country have attained a critical point. They follow the recent case of six journalists arrested and sentenced to two-year imprisonment in August 2009 for criticising the government on the lack of investigation into the murder of journalist Deydra Hydara in 2004. Although the six journalists were later released on a presidential pardon following strong international pressure, the court case warned human rights defenders and independent journalists that no criticism will be tolerated.
The stern warning directly threatens Gambian and non-Gambian human rights defenders alike, including the several hundreds of them expected to attend the 46th session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in November. Front Line and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders fear for the safety of human rights defenders in the Gambia.
Our organisations call on the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to formally condemn the statement made by the president of its host country and call on the African Union to consider moving the headquarters of the ACHPR, as the security and safety of participating human rights defenders is not guaranteed by the Gambian authorities. Additionally, our organisations urge the Human Rights Council, currently in session, to condemn the statements made by President Jammeh. Finally, we also urge President Jammeh to accept criticism of its government as mandated by the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and at all times to effectively guarantee the protection of human rights defenders and ensure they can carry out their activities without any hindrances.
December 07, 2009 – Freedom Newspaper
Jammeh Threatens To Sack Gay And Lesbian Soldiers In Gambia….Says Lesbianism Is A Taboo In The Military
by Staff Reporter M Faye, and Ebrima Jallow, Banjul
Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh says he will sack gay and lesbian army officers serving the country’s military. The Presiden who was addressing the newly promoted army chiefs, said lesbianism is a “ taboo” in the army, and therefore warned soldiers to desist from such practices, which he describes as “evil” and ungodly. “We will not encourage lesbianism and homosexuality in the military. It is a taboo in our armed forces. I will sack any soldier suspected of being a gay, or lesbian in The Gambia. We need no gays in our armed forces,” Jammeh said.
The Gambian leader, who recently threatens to behead gays in the West African country, said soldiers whose sexual orientation is gay should contemplate leaving the army, as his Government have zero tolerance for gays. The President advised the army chiefs to monitor the activities of their men, and deal with soldiers bent on practicing lesbianism in the military. Indiscipline in the army, said Jammeh, is a “no, no, no” and therefore warned soldiers to jealously safeguard the nation’s much cherished cultural, and traditional values. The Gambian leader believes that the military should be a no go area for gays.
The Gambia is predominantly a Muslim country, with Muslims accounting for 90 percent of the population. Islam shunned lesbianism in all its form. The President wants the newly hired army chiefs to weed out suspected gays in the army. Although, there is no evidence of lesbianism being practiced in the country’s military. The President said he wants a Professional army free of gays, and saboteurs. Mr. Jammeh also spoke about the need to discourage tribalism in the military.
In the United States, the Obama administration creates a conducive environment for military gays. Soldiers are not required to disclose, or discuss their sexual orientation. In other words, being a gay does not disqualify one to join the US military. President Jammeh’s recent outburst against suspected gays in the army is attracting a lot of attention here. Many believe that the President is out to provoke gay organizations, with the view of settling old scores with them.
Jammeh has in the recent past threatened to kill gays in the country. Some European tourists were rounded up by the police and charged with luring Gambian beach boys-known here as “ Bumsters” into gay activities. A top official at the President office said he suspects that the Head of state has gone insane. The official said Jammeh is suffering from down syndrome-a mental deficiency, which often leads to madness.
“ It is unfortunate that he is making such an irresponsible statement. This guy has gone nuts. He does not remember some of the things he said. I am sure his statement on gays will offend the gay community. He wants to comment on issues he doesn’t have any clue about. This is the type of President we have in The Gambia. He even threatened to fire female soldiers suspected of skin bleaching,”said the state house insider.
Mr. Jammeh said he wants the country’s military to be the best in the region. He says this cannot be achieved in the absence of discipline, and moral values.