The United Nations has condemned Gambia’s President, Yahya Jammeh for inciting tensions in the West African nation following a speech in which he vowed to eliminate the Mandinka ethnic group.
Jammeh is reported to have said that he would put the “the Mandinkas where even a fly can’t see them” during a political rally in Tallinding on June 3.
The Gambian president also allegedly referred to the Mandinka as “enemies and foreigners.” He said he had evidence to prove that “Mandinkas are not from Gambia but Mali.”
We have seen, in Rwanda, Bosnia – and more recently in the Middle East - how incitement to violence has led to mass killings along identity lines.
“I am profoundly alarmed by President Jammeh’s public stigmatisation, dehumanisation and threats against the Mandinka,” the UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng stated. “Public statements of this nature by a national leader are irresponsible and extremely dangerous. They can contribute to dividing populations, feed suspicion and serve to incite violence against communities, based solely on their identity.”
The UN Special Adviser said he was particularly appalled by President Jammeh’s vitriolic rhetoric as history has shown that hate speech that constitutes incitement to violence can be both a warning sign and a powerful trigger for atrocity crimes.
“We have seen, in Rwanda, Bosnia – and more recently in the Middle East – how incitement to violence has led to mass killings along identity lines,” Dieng stated and reminded President Jammeh that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited under international human rights law as well as under national legislation.”
Mandinkas are the largest tribe in the Gambia making up 42 per cent of the country’s 1.8 million population.
A military officer and former wrestler, Jammeh has ruled Gambia with an iron fist since he seized power in a coup in 1994, and is regularly accused of sanctioning a catalogue of human rights abuses.
The country is set to hold presidential elections in December and opposition groups have called for reforms to enable the elections to be free and fair.