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President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, who insists on the title "His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor President", is set to execute everyone on that country's death row in an act of post-Eid benevolence...
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African Despot Sets Deadline for
Execution of Everyone on Death Row

The London Telegraph
An eccentric African despot, who claims to have discovered a cure for Aids, has fixed a deadline of Saturday for the execution of every last prisoner on death row. President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia chose to mark the Muslim celebration of Eid by announcing that 47 inmates with capital sentences would all be shot.

The festival following the holy month of Ramadan is supposed to be marked by gestures of mercy, but Mr Jammeh, who insists on the title "His Excellency Sheikh Professor Doctor President", has chosen to invert the tradition.

He pledged that firing squads would carry out the executions "to the letter," adding: "There is no way my government will allow 99 per cent of the population to be held to ransom by criminals".

Four days after Mr Jammeh uttered those words on Aug 19, eight men and one woman were led from their cells in Mile 2 jail near Gambia's capital, Banjul, and shot. This was the first time that capital sentences have been carried out in the country since 1985.

Mr Jammeh fixed a deadline of Sept 15 for the remaining 38 prisoners on death row to suffer this punishment. A spokesperson for Amnesty International said that the executions appeared to be "on hold" for now, but the president's intentions remained unclear. "Amnesty will continue to monitor the situation," she added.

America, Britain and the European Union have all urged Mr Jammeh to show clemency. But Lamin Jobarteh, the Gambian justice minister, has insisted that all executions will be carried out regardless of international pressure.

The minister explained that Mr Jammeh had "sworn on the Koran before the whole world to execute murderers according to the laws of the land". Mr Jobarteh added: "Allah entrusted this position to Yahya Jammeh and anybody who is averse to the decree of Allah can bite their nose."

Most of those on death row are believed to be officials and soldiers from the previous regime that Mr Jammeh overthrew in a military coup in 1994. The leader who insists on being known as both "professor" and "doctor" left school at 16 with an "O" Level in Geography and four other subjects.

Mr Jammeh's path to the presidency was entirely accidental. His predecessor, Sir Dawda Jamara, fled Gambia as soon as the military takeover began -- and Mr Jammeh, then a 29-year-old Lieutenant, was the first army officer to reach the presidential palace in Banjul. He duly seized the opportunity to declare himself president.

Since then, Mr Jammeh's rule over the former British colony has become steadily more eccentric. One United Nations official based in West Africa privately questioned the president's sanity.

In 2007, Mr Jammeh announced that a potion of his own concoction, made from local herbs, was an infallible cure for Aids. A group of HIV-positive Gambians was duly persuaded to abandon the anti-retroviral drugs that delay the onset of the syndrome and adopt the president's treatment instead. Their fate is unknown.

In 2009, Mr Jammeh announced that "witchcraft" had caused the death of his aunt. The security forces promptly rounded up about 1,000 supposed "witches" across Gambia, locking them up for beatings and torture and forcing them to drink hallucinogenic potions. Several hundred are believed to have endured this ordeal at the president's personal farm.

Nonetheless, Gambia remains a member of the British Commonwealth, with Mr Jammeh entitled to attend the biannual conference, which is always opened by the Queen.

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Editor's Note: "His Excellency President, Community Organizer, Professor, Progressive Savior" hasn't commented yet on the benevolence of this Islamic leader...


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