(JollofNews) – President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia has used the 21st anniversary of his military coup to grant mass amnesty to political prisoners, murderers, rapists and drug dealers serving various jail terms in the country.
Mr Jammeh, 50, came to power in coup d’état on 22nd July 1994 and despite promises to be a man of the people transformed himself into a god and rules the country with an iron fist. He keeps on making headlines for recurrent attacks on homosexuals; gross human rights violations including kidnapping, arbitrary arrest, torture and murder of political opponents, critics and human rights defenders.
But in a surprise move on Wednesday, Mr Jammeh who had earlier vowed never to grant amnesty to people who have committed crimes against his regime and has also revealed plans to execute death row inmates, said he is pardoning all political prisoners and other convicts serving various jail terms from 1994 to 2013.
He said the decision to grant the amnesty is based on the Islamic teachings of forgiveness and his firm believe in Allah.
“I have sworn here on several occasions that there are certain crimes I won’t forgive, but I have turned a new page and all those convicted of treason from 1994 to 2013 and are now on death row or serving life sentences are hereby pardoned,” he told a gathering of school children and supporters at the July 22nd Square in Banjul.
Mr Jammeh added: “As from today, all those convicted of murder and have served ten years and above are hereby pardoned. All those who have been convicted of possession of cannabis especially young people except repeat offenders are hereby pardoned.
“Those convicted of trafficking cannabis and hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin and have served three years and above and five years and above respectively are hereby pardoned. People jailed for raping women aged 20 and above from 1994 to 2013 are also forgiven.”
Mr Jammeh said he is also granting amnesty to Gambians abroad, who are currently wanted for treason and other offences against his regime.
However, the president said his amnesty would not be extended to four people namely; a cannibal who murdered a woman on a farm, cut her body into pieces and ate part of her flesh; a man who killed his elderly wife and threatened to kill his children for opposing his decision to marry a second wife; and two Nigerian men, Michael Ifunaya Chukwbiken and Agbaeze Ugochulwou Stanley who brutally murdered a British expatriate, Ian Stoke, in May 2012 and people convicted of infanticide.
Mr Jammeh warned all the pardoned prisoners to abide by the law.
“The relatives of all those who are going to be pardoned must be warned that they must never be on the wrong side of the law for the next ten years otherwise there would be trouble,” he said.
“Drugs, murder, rape are not going to be tolerated in this country.”