6 – Yahya Jammeh (The Gambia 1994 – 2017)
Jammeh came to power on July 22, 1994, after leading a bloodless coup to overthrow the Gambian government. Over the next two decades, he ruled by fear and tried to suppress the media throughout his reign. In 2000, he threatened to murder anyone who disturbed the peace and stability of the nation. In 2004, he told journalists to “go to hell” if they didn’t obey his government and the following year, Jammeh lamented the fact that he allowed “too much expression” in the country.
One of his worst crimes was the Gambian student massacre in April 2000. On April 10, thousands of students gathered at the Banjul to protest two shocking recent crimes. First, a young student named Ebrima Barry was beaten to death by firefighters and then, a 13-year old girl was raped by a policeman in uniform. Police arrived at the protest and fired rubber bullets and tear gas. When the students regrouped and began throwing stones, the police opened fire with live ammunition. 16 people, including a 3-year old child, were murdered and at least 80 people were injured. It is believed that Jammeh gave the order to open fire but predictably, he denied the charge.
During his reign, dozens of people were abducted by men in plain clothes. Many of these individuals languished in prison without trial for years, and several died in custody. According to an Amnesty International report in 2009, at least 1,000 Gambians had been kidnapped by witch doctors sponsored by the government. The victims were brought to special government detention centers and forced to drink poisonous hallucinogenic substances.
Jammeh saved his greatest acts of terror for the homosexual community. The many awful things he has said about the LGBTQ community include a suggestion that gay people would doom the world. Jammeh also said that gay people were ‘vermin’ and lower than mosquitoes. In 2012, he said that gay rights would destroy culture and were a great mistake. The following year, he suggested that homosexuality was deadlier than all the world’s natural disasters combined. Jammeh has also threatened to slit the throats of homosexuals and warned that he would decapitate gay people in the Gambia.
Finally, after winning four elections and claiming that he could cure AIDS, Jammeh was defeated in a 2016 election. While he initially said he would accept the result, he predictably reneged on his promise, citing “unacceptable abnormalities.” After Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency and various ministers resigned, Senegal, which was chosen to forcibly remove Jammeh from his post, moved troops to the border. Finally, he fled for Equatorial Guinea after stealing over $11 million from the state treasury.