Gambia's Jammeh calls gays 'vermin', says to fight like mosquitoes

BANJUL Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:58pm EST

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton/Pool

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Burton/Pool

BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday called homosexuals "vermin" and said his government would tackle them in the same way it fights malaria-causing mosquitoes.

The latest comments from Jammeh, who last year branded gays a threat to humanity, coincide with a renewed crackdown on same-sex relationships in Africa, where homosexuality is taboo and illegal in 37 countries.

In recent months, Nigeria has outlawed same-sex relationships and Uganda has voted for life imprisonment for some homosexual acts.

"We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively," Jammeh said in a speech on state television to mark the 49th anniversary of Gambia's independence from Britain.

Britain and some other Western nations have threatened to cut aid to governments that pass anti-gay laws.

But Jammeh said his country would defend its sovereignty and Islamic beliefs, and not yield to outside pressure on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

"We will therefore not accept any friendship, aid or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptised by the powers that promote them," he said.

"As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhoea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence," he added.

Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, drew strong international criticism after he executed a number of prisoners in 2012.

Despite concerns over Gambia's poor human rights record, diplomats said the European Union could double aid to the country over the next seven years.

(Reporting by Pap Saine; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Sonya Hepinstall)