From Caligula to Kim Jong-il, history teaches us the wisdom of Lord Acton's dictum about tyrants. The latest example comes from the tiny West African nation of Gambia. Ummah News Links highlights a column by Hilary Baingimisha originally published in New Nation, of Kampala, Uganda detailing the horrifying delusions of Gambia's president
Yaya Jammeh, 41, [who] announced that he had been sent by God - this God who loves African State Houses - to rid his country of HIV/Aids. Baffling public health workers struggling against faith healers, he declared that he was given mandate to cure HIV. He produced a herbal concoction which he says cures HIV/Aids as long as the patient on treatment refrains from drinking alcohol, tea and coffee; eating kola nuts; and having sex.
The news was received with praises from all corners of the country including the ministry of health, the country's national university and the country's press. The visionally leader, they said, was truly their saviour.
One brave UN representative, Fadzai Gwaradzimba, warned of talk of a cure and was summarily expelled, according to the Voice of America. Since then, other representatives have treating the claims with a straight face, attempting to gather data. Unfortunately, they have not been able to do so in way which produce reliable conclusions. For example, one group of "patients" taking the herbs and presumably refraining from kola nuts, etc. , had their blood drawn and tested by outside experts. But there were no earlier samples against which to compare, so it was not possible to know if a lack of HIV was due to a cure or to its original absence.
Jammeh took power in a coup in 1994, when he must have been about 28 years old. One further element of his mystical cure: he uses
a string of Islamic prayer beads and a leather-bound Quran to pray for the patients. Pointing the Quran at each of the patients, Jammeh prayed: "In the name of Allah, in three to 30 days you will all be cured."
Right now Gambia has a comparatively low Aids infection rate by African standards, 1.3%. But its 1.6 million people may not fare so well in the future if their madman despot continues to receive mystical guidance. And who will stop him?