Conflict with Senegal, fifth term, repression of opponents, poverty … On all subjects, the president expressed without complex and critical sweeps a backhand.
Three in the morning in Farafenni, a small town about three hours drive from Banjul. Yahya Jammeh ends a Council of Ministers convened a few hours earlier – at midnight – for an update on the ongoing negotiations with Senegal . Ministers awaken their drivers, rush into the 4 × 4 gleaming black and disappear into the night.
In the courtyard of the military were asleep on mattresses on the floor. Wearing his eternal white boubou, Jammeh watch the news on Al Jazeera. The late hour did not bother him. He said he did not need to sleep more than an hour a night – a habit inherited from his years in the military. It is therefore ready for the interview.
Jeune Afrique: It took three months of blockade and palaver between Gambia and Senegal , the intervention of a third head of state – Alpha Conde – and significant economic losses for both sides to keep the border town be reopened. How could we get there?
Yahya Jammeh: These are the Senegalese officers working at the border, which imposed an illegal pricing system to Gambian transporters, and I complain for years. The situation had become untenable and, as nothing was done nor under Abdoulaye Wade Macky Sall nor under, I decided to impose the same taxes to the Senegalese. That’s where it all started.
How would you describe your relationship with your Senegalese counterpart?
They are much worse than in the days of Wade! Macky Sall as he was ill intentions, but he was more discreet. He never left the Gambian dissidents express themselves freely, their utter threats in the Senegalese media. Macky Sall, him, the fact shamelessly. His government protects all those who plot against my country, all those who commit crimes in The Gambia and fleeing by claiming that their rights are violated. I sent him a message and I was very clear: if they attack it protects the Gambia, so I will attack Senegal. I’m ready.
There is an age limit in the Gambian Constitution, which will prevent me one day to represent me
You are already in power for twenty-two years and you represent for president in December …
I will be president as long as God and my people desire. I’ll work as long as I can, to the development of this country.
The will of the people and God are your only limitations?
No. There is an age limit in the Gambian Constitution, which prevent me one day represent me. It is 65 or 70, I do not know … When I get that age, I would say bye-bye. I will respect the Constitution. However, we do not limit the number of terms.
Because if people want to limit the number of your projects, they only have to stop voting for you, it’s as simple as that. And let’s be serious: in Africa, when you start a project, you need at least a year to find funding, six months to carry out feasibility studies, etc. It hardly started your term has expired.
That’s why so many projects are never completed. Advocate term limits in Africa is advocating instability. This will not happen in Gambia, even if Westerners make their battle cry, which developed them by raiding us for hundreds of years. Who are they asking us?
On the continent, many countries have already adopted this design of a limited power over time. Others have even announced, like the Beninese Patrice Talon, they would one term …
[Laughs] It’s new …
Where is the problem ? People die in detention or during interrogation, it is very common.
For months, the opposition demand electoral reforms and peacefully manifest in Banjul – demonstrations that were violently repressed. Looking to silence opposition to the approach of the presidential election?
There is nothing happening with the opposition. These pseudo-opponents are really as tribalism. They do not want reforms, they just say: “This president must go.”They saw what happened in Tunisia and they want to do the same. But they will not succeed. I will not tolerate it.
Solo Sandeng, an official of the United Democratic Party (UDP), died in mid-April after being detained . Amnesty International and the UN Secretary General calling for the opening of an investigation. Will you make it?
No. Ban Ki-moon and Amnesty International can go to hell! [He insists that we wrote.] Who are they to demand it? Why do not they ask the United States to open investigations on all those blacks who are killed by the police? There is two weights, two measures, and I do not accept it.
But a man is dead …
Where is the problem ? People die in detention or during interrogation, it is very common. There, one person is dead and they want an investigation? No one will tell me what to do in my country. As for Ban Ki-moon, he knows me well. He can call me if he wants to talk. But he shows ingratitude, he forgets that he was elected to his post with the support of the Gambia.
Westerners are accustomed to what African leaders are as yes-yes
And in terms of other opponents arrested and remain in jail?
A trial is ongoing and is open to the public.
How do you react when you qualify dictator?
I’m proud of it.
Proud of what?
Because nobody starves in Gambia and that everyone can benefit from free education. When I took office, the country was one of the poorest in the world, it is no longer. There is a caveat, a Parliament, a reliable health system … Call me dictator if you want, but I’m not a dictator development. I can not help it if Westerners are accustomed to what African leaders are only yes-yes, without more independence than Mickey Mouse. I am not a follower. I lead.
But Gambia is still one of the world’s poorest countries, ranked 175th out of 188 in 2015, according to the Human Development Index of the UNDP …
I have a problem with the Bretton Woods institutions. My growth, my economic prosperity, it is I who defined. I look at how many people could not afford a lunch or a bicycle yesterday and how much can today. It’s enough for me. What good is it to have a growth rate in double figures when half the schools are empty because the children are forced to work? What good is it to have millions in the bank when millions of people are struggling to feed themselves? You can call me a socialist, but I call it human.
I have no friends in the West and I do not want
About humanity, you are known for your very harsh statements against homosexuals …
But homosexuality is not human, it goes against the law of God! He created Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Eve or Adam and Eve! Ban Ki-moon wants to lecture us.Well he comes here and see what I will answer him! In addition, it is racist. He dismissed all Africans in positions of responsibility at the UN.
Do you understand that such statements harm your image and that of the Gambia?
I have no friends in the West and I do not want it. Westerners hate me because I do not ridicule me saying I am what I am not, but I do not care.
Is that why you never wear suit or tie?
Have you ever seen a politician wearing a boubou in France? I would add that when they come to us, we make them gifts. They thank us, they smile, but you never see them wearing them in photos. I’m sure they throw barely got on the plane.
Do you have friends on the continent?
I like talking with Robert Mugabe [Zimbabwean President]. We were not close at first, but now we are. It’s the same with Alpha Condé [head of the Guinean State]. I was also friends with Kerekou and Omar Bongo Ondimba [former presidents, now deceased, Benin and Gabon]. Friends, in fact I’ve had and I’m full.
yet we see you very little in regional summits …
This is because I am never invited. I speak the truth and they do not want to hear it.And then we can not work with people who take their orders in the West. Look what happened in Ivory Coast. There was a rebellion against Laurent Gbagbo .
ECOWAS wanted to send his own strength but the French made their Marcoussis [agreements to end the Ivorian civil war in 2003], and for the first time in the history of Africa, the rebels have joined the negotiating table alongside an elected government, and took the post of prime minister. the end of the story is known … The French put their puppets in power and decided to send the other party to the ICC.
What do you think of the work of Fatou Bensouda, your ex-Minister of Justice became prosecutor in The Hague?
His job is difficult and, contrary to what I hear, the ICC is not intended especially Africa. This is not Bensouda who wanted Gbagbo, Ouattara is who sent him by saying that he could not judge him on the spot. African leaders grumble today. But why they signed [the treaty ratifying the ICC] knowing that they could be victims?
They are fans of international institutions and agreements they sign, but wonder why they were written. Look at the United States: they are not signatories them! Let those who want to leave the ICC to go away, but if African countries were less poor and more united, we can weigh in court.