The Gambia profile - Leaders

  • 15 January 2015
  • From the section Africa

President: Yahya Jammeh

Yahya Jammeh seized power in 1994 as a young army lieutenant and has won four widely criticised multi-party elections since then and faced down several coup attempts.

He won his fourth five-year term in November 2011 in elections to which the main West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, refused to send monitors. It described the political environment as not conducive to free and fair elections.

Mr Jammeh raised eyebrows early in 2007 when he claimed that he could cure AIDS with herbs and bananas.

United Nations Development Programme representative Fadzai Gwaradzimba was expelled after warning the "cure" might encourage risky behaviour.

Mr Jammeh's government has been criticised by international rights groups for its attitude to civil liberties, especially freedom of the press.

Among the most persistent critics has of his human rights record been the British government. Some observers say tension caused by this lay behind Mr Jammeh's decision to lead The Gambia out of the Commonwealth of Nations in 2013.

In 2012 Gambia resumed capital punishment, executing nine prisoners by firing squad. Mr Jammeh said he wanted the remaining 47 death row prisoners killed within weeks, but suspended executions in response to international pressure.

Mr Jammeh in 2014 called homosexuals ''vermin'' and said the government would deal with them as it would malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Opposition forces attempted a coup during his absence abroad in December 2014, but security forces remained loyal to the president.