Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Friday declared the formerly secular country an Islamic republic in a move he said was designed to distance the West African state further from its colonial past.
“In line with the country’s religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” said Jammeh on state television. “As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy,” he added.
Gambia’s population of 1.8 million people is 95 percent Muslim. He said that other citizens of other faiths would still be able to practise.
Jammeh, an animated orator who has earned the reputation for making surprise declarations over the course of his 21-year presidency, pulled Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it neo-colonial. In 2007, he claimed to have found a herbal cure for AIDS.