Home Africa Yahya Jammeh: The Former Gambian President who claimed to cure HIV/AIDS

Yahya Jammeh: The Former Gambian President who claimed to cure HIV/AIDS

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Yahya Jammeh, who initially refused to step down as Gambia’s president, ruled the west African country with an iron fist since seizing power in a coup in 1994.

A 29-year-old army lieutenant at the time, he spearheaded the uprising by a group of soldiers and ousted Dawda Jawara, who had been president since 1970.

Mr Jammeh was elected leader in 1996 and went on to retain his presidency in subsequent polls in 2001, 2006 and 2011 after a 2002 constitutional amendment removed presidential term limits.

He has defied medical opinion for the past decade, claiming to have invented a “God-given” herbal cure for AIDS.

“Who do you want me to convince that I can cure Aids?” he said in an interview with Sky News on 20 February, 2007, when questioned about the efficacy of his remedy.

“I don’t have a duty to explain to anybody who doesn’t want to understand.”

The following day, a statement on his official website attacked the news report and asserted the “gifted leader” was “succeeding where modern medical science has failed”.






Today, the website claims his “special skills” include “extensive knowledge in traditional herbal therapy especially in the treatment of Asthma and Epilepsy”. There is no mention of having the ability to cure AIDS.

It also lists his accolades, including a lifetime achievement award by the Nollywood and African Film Critics’ Awards, widely known as African Oscars-NAFCA.

Human rights activists have accused Mr Jammeh of torturing and killing his opponents, including journalists.

He has alleged to have arrested hundreds of people on suspicion of being witches or wizards and threatened to decapitate homosexuals.

Few people expected him to lose last year’s election to Adama Barrow, a former Argos security guard in London.

December’s shock landslide result was greeted with joy by many in the country and by democracy advocates across the world.






Mr Barrow won by 263,515 votes – 45% of the total – while Mr Jammeh finished second with 36%.

Gambians voted for Mr Barrow – who lived in Britain for three-and-a-half years when he was younger – by placing marbles into drums marked for each candidate.

Mr Jammeh – who has reportedly been married three times over the years and has two children with his second wife – initially said he would accept the result and step down.

But the momentous announcement was soon reversed and has created political turmoil.

Adama Barrow
Adama Barrow won the election with 45% of the total – while Mr Jammeh finished second with 36%






At least five ministers have resigned from his government, hundreds of people have fled to neighbouring Senegal and others in the country say they fear violence.

The 51-year-old’s supporters deny abuses and have often criticised the West for meddling in African affairs.

Mr Barrow, who has for the first time united and galvanised Gambia’s opposition, has pledged to revive the economy, end human rights abuses and step down after three years to boost democracy.

But as thousands of British holidaymakers are flown home amid the unrest and political uncertainty, Mr Jammeh’s presidency has been extended by three months by Gambia’s National Assembly.

He has already declared a state of emergency while the supreme court rules on his petition challenging the election result.

Mr Barrow has vowed to take office regardless of whether Mr Jammeh makes room for him.

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