Thursday, March 26, 2009

News: Ooo eee, ooo ah ah, ting tang walla walla, bing bang.

I don't even know how to introduce this, so let's just cut straight to the article from the BBC about what appears to be a giant, possibly government-backed witch hunt in Gambia.

Up to 1,000 Gambian villagers have been abducted by "witch doctors" to secret detention centres and forced to drink potions, a human rights group says.

Amnesty International said some forced to drink the concoctions developed kidney problems, and two had died.

Officials in the police, army and the president's personal protection guard had accompanied the "witch doctors" in the bizarre roundup, said witnesses.

Gambia's government was unavailable to comment on the claims.

The human rights group asserted that many of those abducted were elderly.

The London-based rights group said the witch hunters, said to be from neighbouring Guinea, were invited into Gambia after the death of the president's aunt earlier this year was blamed on witchcraft.

To put this in scientific context, in 2007 the president of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh, announced that he had developed a cure for AIDS. MSNBC describes Jammeh's treatment:

From the pockets of his billowing white robe, Gambia’s president pulls out a plastic container, closes his eyes in prayer and rubs a green herbal paste onto the rib cage of the patient — a concoction he claims is a cure for AIDS.

He then orders the thin man to swallow a bitter yellow drink, followed by two bananas.

“Whatever you do, there are bound to be skeptics, but I can tell you my method is foolproof,” President Yahya Jammeh told an Associated Press reporter, surrounded by bodyguards in his presidential compound. “Mine is not an argument, mine is a proof. It’s a declaration. I can cure AIDS and I will.”

To properly work, the cure must be taken on a Thursday and, more troubling, the patient must stop taking any anti-retroviral medicine.

Though it is not clear exactly what he thinks he is doing, critics have suggested that Jammeh's faith in his herbal "cure" stems from his mistaken notion that AIDS is caused by some sort of intestinal parasite. He also claims to be able to cure asthma and high blood pressure.

To put this in a human rights context, Jammeh – who is, curiously enough, the Vice President of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace – has been linked to the deaths of 12 student protestors, at least 2 journalists critical of his administration, 44 Ghanaian immigrants, and 10 foreign nationals denounced variously as criminals and spies. In 2008, he announced that his government would begin a policy of beheading homosexuals. Several years ago, folks started an online petition to get the International Criminal Court to indict him for crimes against humanity.

Jammeh is actually serving his third term as president, winning the 2006 election with nearly 70% of the popular vote.

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