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Gambia Opposition Rejects Jammeh's Death Threat

By Peter Clottey
22 September 2009

Gambian opposition parties have rejected President Yahya Jammeh's pronouncement to kill people deemed enemies of the state.

During a television address Monday, Jammeh said he will supervise the killing of anyone who aims to destabilize the country.

He also warned human rights groups to stop interfering in Gambia's internal politics, warning citizens not to cooperate with them.

But the opposition claims Jammeh's death threat is a calculated ploy to silence any dissent.

Jammeh has often been criticized for his iron fist rule in clamping down on journalists who are critical of his administration.

Halifah Salah, an editorial member of the Foroyaa newspaper, said that there is need for the opposition to demystify President Jammeh's antics.

"Clearly I must say that the Gambia cannot continue to focus on statements of this nature. What we are doing now is to get the Gambian people to understand that the country belongs to them (and) that leaders are there as trustees," Salah said.

He described President Jammeh's death threats as bad taste.

"What we expect is the language that will enable the people to understand that there is rule of law, there are courts, there are institutions. And that the executive is mainly there to be able to utilize their tax money to build the institutions which will protect liberties," he said.

Salah said there is need for the opposition to provide sharp contrasting language to stand up to the president.

"The fact that the language is belligerent indicates to us on our side…I must say that the way to counteract this type of language is to offer an alternative," Salah said.

He said the opposition should work on discrediting the president's death threats.

"We must demystify the executive. And the way to demystify the executive is to state exactly what he said for everybody to hear, but at the same time, to build up the confidence of the people, to see that governance must be determined by the people," he said.

Salah said Jammeh's threats undermine the confidence of Gambians.

"Anybody who is there who utilizes a language which is not in the interest of the people… it is (important) to tell the people that this language is not in the interest of the people… and it is the right of the people to put in place the type of government… which will safeguard their liberties prosperities," Salah said.

President Jammeh has often called on journalists to obey his government "or go to hell". In June, 2005, he stated on radio and television that he has allowed "too much expression" in the country.

The Jammeh government introduced harsh new press laws following the December, 2004, unsolved killing of reporter Deyda Hydra, who had been critical of his administration, in. But Jammeh denies security agents were involved in the killing.

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