BuzzFeed’s J. Lester Feder reported late today that the United States has dropped The Gambia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a free-trade agreement launched in 2000, because of the crackdown on LGBTI rights as well as other human rights issues. This will cost The Gambia about $37 million annually in duty-free exports to the United States.
The Reuters news agency reported today that: “The U.S. National Security Council has voiced concern over Gambia’s moves to block access to UN human rights investigators and enact new laws against homosexuality.”
Feder also reported this afternoon that, “media in The Gambia announced that three men would be put on trial for homosexuality. These are the first to face trial since police began arresting people on allegations of homosexuality in November. At least sixteen more are known to be in detention, and Gambian human rights activists do not know if they are even still alive.”
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the White House, said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process… In addition, in October, Gambian President Jammeh signed into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, including life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ Reports have surfaced of arrests, detention, and torture of individuals because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT group in the United States may have also influenced Obama’s decision. It launched a petition “asking President Obama to take swift action against President Jammeh for his intolerable actions…. by barring President Jammeh and his associates from entering the U.S. and by freezing his U.S. assets.” The While House has not said whether it intends to take further sanctions against The Gambia.
Fatou Camara, illustrated her Facebook page earlier today with the copy of Gambia’s Daily Observer illustrated here and headlined “Three suspected gays to be prosecuted.” She told BuzzFeed that the US actions were taken because of the “support that this LGBT issue has.”
Camara, a former press secretary to President Jammeh had been charged with subversion in The Gambia. She is now living in exile living in the United States. “Jammeh [will] know that the US is really not joking not now,” Camara told BuzzFeed. Until now, “he was really playing with them” and behaving as if there were no consequences for violating human rights protections, Feder reported. Camara posted a list of hundreds of people abducted, killed or disappeared to her site earlier this year including two Americans thought to have been abducted last year by Jammeh’s security forces.
She posted the news that the US had also expelled South Sudan from the AGOA Free Trade agreement. Reuters reported South Sudan was cited for “fighting between government and rebel forces, which has killed more than 10,000 people.”
- Gambian president scapegoating LGBTI (76crimes.com)
- HRC Calls on US Government to Stand Up for LGBT Gambians (hrc.org)