|On December 11, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh (pictured) announced the country would be an Islamic republic|
Less than a month after declaring Gambia an Islamic republic its government has issued a decree ordering female civil servants to cover their hair while at work. No reasons were given for the introduction of the new rule, which was announced in a memo that was leaked to local opposition newspapers. It comes only a few weeks after President Yahya Jammeh announced Gambia would become an Islamic republic due to its majority Muslim population and a desire to break from its colonial past.
The memo, published by Freedom, stated 'all female staff' within government departments were no longer allowed to expose their hair during working hours, effective from December 31. It went on to urge female staff 'to use a head tie and neatly wrap their hair'. 'All heads of departments and agencies are urgently advised to implement this directive and bring it to the attention of their female staff,' the memo concluded.
On December 11, Jammeh - who is notorious for his alleged human rights abuses and persecution of homosexuals - declared the West African country an Islamic republic. Although it doesn't appear that his announcement changes Gambia's laws or its constitutional status as a secular state, it could yet form the justification for rules such as that now affecting its female employees. During the declaration at a political rally in the coastal village Brufut, 9miles west of the capital Banjul, he stated: 'In line with the country's religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state.
'Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy,' Jammeh said of his country, which gained independence from Britain in 1965. Jammeh said the rights of Gambia's Christian community will be respected and there would be no mandates on dress. 'We will be an Islamic state that would respect the rights of all citizens and non-citizens.'
However, the head of the country's Islamic body wouldn't say if he endorsed the declaration. 'We haven't met yet to discuss over the presidential announcement,' said Gambia's Supreme Islamic Council Chairman Imam Momodou Lamin Touray.
Hamat Bah of the opposition National Reconciliation Party criticized the decision.
'There is a constitutional clause that says that Gambia is a secular state. You cannot make such a declaration without going through a referendum.'
Jammeh has ruled Gambia since seizing power in 1994.
- Daily Mail