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Gambia's President Declares Country an Islamic Republic


The country gained independence from Britain in 1965.

FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, file photo, Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh arrives for a summit to address a seminar on security during an event marking the centenary of the unification of Nigeria's north and south in Abuja, Nigeria. Heavy gunfire is reported Tuesday Dec. 30, 2014, near the presidential palace in Gambia, according to local residents, raising the specter of a coup attempt while the longtime ruler is currently visiting France, state media reported. On Tuesday, soldiers linked to his presidential guard were believed to be involved in the fighting, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, FILE)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Gambia's president has declared the tiny West African country an Islamic republic, saying it is line with the country's majority religion and is an effort to break from a colonial past.

President Yahya Jammeh made the declaration Friday at the end of a political rally. He said the decision is in line with the country's religious identity and values, which is about 90 percent Muslim. Jammeh assured the rights of the Christian community will be protected.

Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh  (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, FILE)

Jammeh said Gambia could not afford to continue a colonial legacy. The country gained independence from Britain in 1965.

An opposition leader has said this kind of decision needs to go through a referendum.

Jammeh seized power in 1994. Rights groups accuse him of gross human rights abuses, including a clampdown on political opponents.

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