The repressive dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh in the Gambia has sanctioned a series of new measures targeting free political and religious life across the country. The latest decree, signed on June 8th by the Police Public Relations Officer Lamin Njie, banned all ceremonies, drumming, music, and dancing during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

The draconian press release describing this ban, made available on the state-controlled website the Gambia Observer, “as the Muslim Ummah is observing the Holy Month of Ramadan, the Office of the Inspector General of Police in honour of the Holy Month is hereby informing the General Public that all Ceremonies, Festivities and Programmes that involves Drumming, Music and Dance during the day or at night are prohibited.”

It reassured the public that “all those engaged in the practice are therefore warned to desist from such acts otherwise they will be eventually apprehended and face the full force of the law without compromise.”

The distribution of this public statement follows a series of other events this week according to The Fatu Network, an independent news site located in the United States. According to the Fatu Network, there are unconfirmed but credible reports that the Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh sacked all municipal police.

According to Fatu Network, “dictator Jammeh has asked the sacked police officers to be paid a six months’ salary with gratuity and be stopped from reporting to work immediately.”

Also this week, Mr. Jammeh demanded the withdrawal of security personnel stationed at the United States Embassy in the capital Banjul. The decision by the Gambian authorities prompted the United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, to close the embassy in Banjul to all non-essential services.

The decision to remove security from the US embassy in Banjul follows the arrest of a Gambian-American citizen during a protest, prompting criticism by the US. According to the Washington Post, the American Fanta Darboe Jawara returned to Gambia for the first time in 11 years and was “caught in a sweep of arrests at a government protest in Banjul.”

These latest developments, not just occurring as Ramadan begins, take place months before the presidential elections in December 2016.

Yahya Jammeh

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