President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia has declared the West African country an Islamic republic, saying the decision was made because Islam is the religion of most citizens and the nation must break away from its colonial past.
Jammeh made the declaration at the end of a political rally held on Friday at the coastal village of Brufut, about 15km west of the capital Banjul.
“In line with the country’s religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state,” the Gambian leader said.
About 90 per cent of Gambia’s 1.8 million people are Muslim. The country gained independence from Britain in 1965.
“Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy,” Jammeh said.
In an attempt to allay the fears of religious minorities, Jammeh said the rights of Gambia’s Christian community, who make up about eight per cent of the country’s population, would be protected.
Jammeh said there would be no mandates on dress. “We will be an Islamic State that will respect the rights of all citizens and non-citizens,” he said.