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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with President Jammeh

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R 261210Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BANJUL
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0008
INFO AMEMBASSY BANJUL

C O N F I D E N T I A L BANJUL 000065


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/26
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINS PHUM GA
SUBJECT: Ambassador Meets with President Jammeh

CLASSIFIED BY: Barry L. Wells, Ambassador, State, Executive Office;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)


1.(SBU) SUMMARY: In what turned in to a two hour meeting on topics
ranging from the AU Summit, regional issues, human rights, and the
Middle East, President Jammeh highlighted both the positive and
negative aspects of the bi-lateral relationship and continued to
stress his deep respect and appreciation for America and President
Barack Obama. "I want your government to know that I am not the
monster you think I am," said President Jammeh in a meeting with
AMB, convened at Jammeh's request. President Jammeh continued in
what concluded to be "a declaration of his commitment to remain a
true friend of the United States." President Jammeh stressed
several times during the meeting that despite appearances, his
friendship with Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba does not affect his
willingness to continue a close partnership with the U.S. Unlike
previous meetings when a number of ministers attended, Jammeh was
joined only by Njogu Bah, newly-appointed Secretary General. END
SUMMARY.


You ignore My Friends, I'll Ignore Yours
-----------------------------------------

2. (C) President Jammeh said he wanted it to be very clear to the
USG that his friendship with Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran does not in
any way reflect that his government approves of all of their
behaviors and principles. He gave the example of voting against
Iran on the Security Council for Human Rights, despite their close
relationship. He said he does not condone Iran's Human Rights
record and told them so. President Jammeh stressed that "his
friendship with Iran does not mean we always agree with them or
that we have any intention of fighting against important U.S.
interests. "I don't approve of your government always siding with
your friend Israel," he said, "but I continue to value our
relationship without reservation. Therefore you do the same, you
ignore my friends, and I'll ignore yours.

3.(C) President Jammeh made several references lauding the efforts
of President Obama and calling him "the solution to the world's
problems." He said it pained him deeply to see the divide in
America with groups of people criticizing Obama's efforts to abate
the policy of isolationism in our foreign policy. The Ambassador
pointed out that this is the democratic process at work where those
with differing views have the opportunity to voice those views,
even if they differ from those of the President.


Jammeh on Israel
-----------------------

4.(C) According to President Jammeh, the entire problem of the
Middle East, rests on America's unconditional relationship and
support to Israel. Jammeh relayed accounts of The Gambia's previous
close relationship with Israel prior to Ariel Sharon and suggested
that President Obama take a personal risk and shift America's
relationship with Israel. He stressed that it is the only way to
bring peace to the Middle East. Jammeh again stressed "We have
never been your enemy and will never be your enemy, but there are
some things that we disagree on, and Israel is one of them."


President Jammeh on Homosexuality and Human Rights
---------------------------------

5.(C) AMB suggested to President Jammeh that perception of him by
outside observers could be attributed in large part to some of his
more incendiary comments such as those related to human rights
workers and "cutting off homosexual's heads". The President
responded, "Yes I did make those comments but did I actually cut
off anyone's head? Have I ever arrested anyone for being gay? No,
but Senegal has arrested and imprisoned someone for being gay and
they receive the MCC. There are gays here in The Gambia, I know
that. But they live in secret and that is fine with me, as long as
long as they go about their business in private we don't mind. But
if you are talking about marrying in this country, that will never
happen. We will never accept gays."

6. (C) The Ambassador briefed the President on the general issues
contained in the Human Rights report which was not yet released,
pointing out that there are criticisms in areas such as press
freedom and treatment of homosexuals. Jammeh continued with a
monologue on policies in France and Great Britain limiting
religious dress in public and religious symbols. "Yes my comments
were strong but what about those issues? Are those not outrageous
comments and actions from the West? But when it comes from me, I
look like monster for defending my country's religious beliefs." He
ended this by saying that no one likes to be disliked and that he
finds this baseless criticism to be painful. The Ambassador
suggested that sometimes the choice of words can be left to
interpretation and care should be taken when speaking in public.


Jammeh the Peace Maker
-------------------------------

7. (U) President Jammeh seemed to be making a part confession-part
plea for a better relationship with the U.S. He offered his
assistance in mitigating tough conversations with difficult
partners such as Iran and Venezuela and promised to be of great
assistance. He reiterated an earlier claim that it was his
influence with Qaddafi that resulted in Libya turning over the
Lockerbie bomber for trial. He said that others had taken credit
for solutions to some difficult problems in Africa at the AU, but
he let them have the credit. He said the Muslim way is not to take
credit for your good deeds, but to do things quietly. He also
referred to his efforts in Guinea-Bissau and the recent successful
re-building of relations with Senegal.


Comment
-----------------

8. (C) President Jammeh in this meeting appeared to be unusually
concerned with how the U.S. sees him. He said specifically that he
had called the Ambassador in to reassure the US of his friendship.
He repeated that he is not asking for anything or any assistance,
but wants to be given respect. Either way, we have an opportunity
to build on our constructive relationship with this majority Muslim
country that has shown willingness to cooperate with us and has
proven to be an influential key player in the region. Given the
fragmented, ineffective opposition in The Gambia, Jammeh is likely
to be re-elected to another 5 year term in the next Presidential
election scheduled for September 2011.


WELLS

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