Dozens of Senegalese gays are reported to have fled to neighboring Gambia and Mali following a wave of arrests and violent anti-gay street protests. The anti-gay campaign began when newspapers reported on a gay wedding that took place on the outskirts of the capital Dakar in early February—sparking a wave of sensationalist press stories on homosexuality, and prompting authorities to arrest all who attended the wedding, including musicians.
When the detainees were unconditionally released without explanation a few days later, media reports alleged that gays had blackmailed high-ranking state officials, threatening to reveal their homosexual proclivities. More gays were subsequently arrested, but hundreds took to the streets of Dakar to protest the release of the wedding guests, led by influential Muslim cleric and lawmaker Imam Mbaye Niang. Chanting “Allahu Akbar,” the protesters lit bonfires and blockaded roads near Dakar’s central mosque.
Senegalese authorities are under pressure from local clerics to crack down as the country prepares to host a major international Islamic summit on March 12. Gambia may not be a safe haven for gays who have been forced to flee, as President Yahya Jammeh recently threatened to harshly punish any acts of homosexuality in the country. (Afrol News, Feb. 25)
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