Gambia: Appeal after rape claim against ex-president Jammeh

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Toufah JallowImage source, Fatou Jallow
Image caption,
Fatou "Toufah" Jallow says she fled The Gambia after she was raped and now lives in Canada

The Gambian government has called on all women and girls in the country to report any sexual violence committed by former President Yahya Jammeh.

The appeal comes after former beauty queen Fatou "Toufah" Jallow told the BBC she had been raped by Mr Jammeh when he was in office in 2015.

The BBC has tried, without success, to contact Mr Jammeh about the claims. He lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

A spokesman for his APRC party denied the accusations.

"We as a party and the Gambian people are tired of the steady stream of unfounded allegations that have been reported against our ex-president," said Ousman Rambo Jatta, in a written statement to the BBC.

"The ex-president has no time to react to lies and smear campaigns. He is a very respectable God-fearing and pious leader who has nothing but respect for our Gambian women," the deputy APRC leader said.

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Ms Jallow, 23, told the BBC she wanted to meet Mr Jammeh, 54, in court so he could face justice.

Her testimony is part of a Human Rights Watch and Trial International report that details another alleged rape and sexual assault by Mr Jammeh.

What is the government doing about the allegations?

Gambian Attorney General Abubacar Tambadou issued a statement praising the courage of Ms Jallow.

He said the ex-president abused his position as head of state to the detriment of many Gambians and called the reports of rape and sexual assault "despicable".

Image source, Getty Images
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Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia for 22 years

A commission has now been set up to investigate reports of human rights violations committed during Mr Jammeh's 22 years in office.

Current President Adama Barrow has said he will await the commission's final report before pursuing requests for Mr Jammeh's possible extradition from Equatorial Guinea.

What did Fatou 'Toufah' Jallow say?

Ms Jallow said she was 18 when she met Mr Jammeh after winning a beauty pageant in 2014 in the capital, Banjul.

In the months following her coronation, she said the former president acted as a father figure when they met, offering her advice, gifts and money, and also arranging for running water to be installed in her family home.

Then at a dinner organised by an aide to the president, she says he asked her to marry him. She refused and rebuffed other enticements from the aide to agree to the offer.

Media caption,
'I refused to marry Yahya Jammeh - then he raped me'

Ms Jallow said the aide then insisted she attend a religious ceremony at State House in her role as beauty queen in June 2015. But when she arrived, she was taken to the president's private residence.

"It was clear what this was going to be," she said, describing Mr Jammeh's anger at her for rejecting him.

Ms Jallow says he slapped her and injected her in her arm with a needle.

"He rubbed his genitals in my face, pushed me down to my knees, pulled my dress up and sodomised me."

The young woman says afterwards she locked herself at home for three days and then decided to flee to neighbouring Senegal.

Once in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, Ms Jallow sought the assistance of various human rights organisations. Weeks later, she was approved protection status and moved to Canada, where she has been living since.

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