Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concerns Wednesday over anti-LGBT rhetoric used by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh in a speech earlier this week.
"The United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh in his National Day speech on February 18," Kerry said in a statement. "All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation. We call on the Government of The Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable."
In his National Day speech earlier this week, Jammeh described gay people as "vermins" who must be combated like mosquitoes carrying malaria.
"We will fight these vermins called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively," Jammeh said, according to The Independent. "As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhoea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence."
In his statement, Kerry spoke directly to those attacked by Jammeh. "Human rights and fundamental freedoms belong to all individuals," Kerry said. "The United States stands by you no matter where you are and no matter who you love."
Kerry's statement is the second criticism of anti-LGBT actions in Africa to come from the Obama administration this week. On Sunday, President Obama issued a statement on an anti-gay bill in Uganda that would criminalize "the promotion or recognition" of homosexual relations. Violators of the law face a 14-year prison sentence for a second conviction, and up to life in prison for repeat offenses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he would sign the bill.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign called on Kerry to recall the U.S. ambassadors to both Uganda and Nigeria over recently enacted anti-LGBT laws.
"The Ugandan and Nigerian governments' decisions to treat their LGBT citizens like criminals cannot be accepted as business as usual by the U.S. government. We urge Secretary Kerry to recall both Ambassadors for consultations in Washington to make clear the seriousness of the situation in both countries," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Last month Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law that not only criminalizes same-sex marriage, but punishes homosexuality with up to 14 years in prison, and those who support or are members of an LGBT organization with up to 10 years in prison. According to The New York Times, gay people in a neighborhood of the capital of Nigeria were attacked Feb. 15 by a mob wielding nail-stubbed clubs and whips and shouting that they were "cleansing the community" of gays.
[Photo: John Kerry. Credit: U.S. State Department.]