Jammeh, who is not attending the CHOGM which formally opens today, raised the ire of local and international human rights groups when he publicly threatened to, “kill anyone who wants to destabilise” his country. Foreign Minister Ousman Jammeh is representing Gambia at the CHOGM.
Stressing that respect for human rights is “a core value of the Commonwealth,” Sharma said: “I would like to say that we are in discussion with the Gambian side and that discussion continues.”
On the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 which is currently before the Ugandan parliament, Sharma acknowledged Newsday’s exclusive report yesterday that the bill was creating a row between Uganda and some liberal Commonwealth nations such as Canada.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is the outgoing chairman of the CHOGM which was last held in Kampala in 2007 and will officially transfer chairmanship of CHOGM to Prime Minister Patrick Manning today. Museveni arrived in the country on Wednesday. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was due to arrive yesterday.
“As far as questions about Uganda are concerned, it is a question before the parliament. We are hopeful that the various voices that are exchanged within the parliament will ensure that this issue is debated.” He was hopeful that all considerations that deal with non-discrimination, vulnerability and respect for human rights will be addressed in the Ugandan parliament before a vote is taken on the controversial legislation.
Sharma said the Commonwealth remains “an organisation of our times” and is in the process of strengthening and expanding its various institutions.
For his part and in contrast to Sharma, Manning downplayed Jammeh’s statements even though he acknowledged they “attracted a lot of attention at home and abroad.”
“The statement of the President essentially related to domestic matters in Gambia. They will not form part of the agenda at CHOGM,” Manning said.
Caribbean Centre for Human Rights executive director Diana Mahabir Wyatt was “absolutely delighted” that the Commonwealth Secretariat was speaking directly with the Gambian government. She disagreed with Manning’s view on the matter, arguing that they were “in contravention of the Harare Declaration” upon which the Commonwealth was founded. Mahabir-Wyatt urged the establishment of machinery in the Commonwealth to deal with human rights abuses and claimed the Ugandan legislation breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.