Concerned by the growing presence of cocaine in The Gambia, the country’s President Yahya Jammeh is recommending to Gambians to drink alcohol, and stay away from cocaine, and other dangerous drugs. The President was addressing thousands of party supporters—during the commemoration of his Government’s 16 years revolution that ousted the former People’s Progressive Party under the leadership of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara. Mr. Jammeh urged Gambians to consume the locally made palm wine, which according to the head of state is healthy and could go a long in serving their entertainment needs. He advised citizens to say “no to drugs” and official corruption. The Gambian leader urged youths in particular to give up drug sale and consumption. He warns that anyone caught trafficking, or selling drugs would face the brunt of the law. He emphasized that it is better to drink alcohol than to use drugs—which he says is bad for people’s health being.
Mr. Jammeh’s pronouncement encouraging the consumption of alcohol, in a country where 90 percent of the population are Muslim, is attracting criticism from Islamic scholars, who accused the President of contravening the teaches of the Koran. The concerned religious scholars said Islam frowns at alcohol consumption including the usage of hard drugs.
“ The Gambia is predominantly a Muslim country. If the President is encouraging youths to drink alcohol, what kind of messages is he trying to send to the populace? This is an irresponsible statement coming from a fake leader calling himself a devoted Muslim. We seriously questioned Jammeh’s claims of being a Muslim. He could have use a better statement than promoting alcohol consumption. We condemn the President’s statement in the strongest terms,” said a prominent Gambian Islamic scholar who wished not to be named.
A senior police officer who spoke to the Freedom Newspaper said close to five hundred Gambians died each year on alcohol related accidents. Quoting statistical data documented by the police Force, the official said the majority of the deaths were as a result of drunk driving. The official says the President’s statement sanctioning the consumption of alcohol at the national level, would no doubt have far reaching implications on the youth population. The official said many youths resort to drugs and alcohol consumption due to stress, or depression related challenges.
“ Essentially, the President is advocating for alcohol abuse in The Gambia. Many would be tempted to drink because of Jammeh’s call for alcohol legalization. He was not very clear in his speech, and evidently some minors would be tempted to drink. If concerted efforts are not put in place to tackle alcohol abuse we are likely to see more accident related deaths in The Gambia,” the official warned.
Mr. Jammeh’s statement followed the discovery of a one billion worth of cocaine in The Gambia, which is a subject of joint British and Gambian intelligence investigations. Already, some foreign nationals have been charged in connection with the cocaine bust. Police say some influential Gambian business tycoons are being associated with the intercepted drugs. More arrests are likely to be effected, police say.