Yahya Jammeh
Gambian President Yahya JammehISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images

The tiny West African nation of Gambia will soon be transformed into an Islamic republic, declared President Yahya Jammeh, who said it was time the country got rid of its 'colonial legacy'. In October 2013, the country had withdrawn from the Commonwealth, stating it would never be a member of any neo-colonial institution.

"In line with the country's religious identity and values, I proclaim Gambia as an Islamic state. As Muslims are the majority in the country, the Gambia cannot afford to continue the colonial legacy," said Jammeh in a televised state address. A new bill to legitimise his announcement is expected to be passed by the Gambia's parliament soon.

He, however, clarified that other faiths will continue to enjoy their right to worship in the country. "Christians and other religions will be given their own respect. Nobody has the right to interfere with their way of life. I have not appointed anyone as an Islamic policeman. Also the way women dress is not your business. You are a Muslim; she is a Muslim. You should not tell her the way she should dress because it not your business. In the next world, you cannot defend her. We will be an Islamic state that would respect the rights of all citizens and non-citizens," he said.

Islam is the predominant religion, practised by approximately 90% of the country's population, according to the CIA factbook. The majority of the Muslims in the Gambia adhere to Sunni laws and traditions, while many also follow the Ahmadiyya tradition. The Christian community represents about 8% of the population. The remaining population adheres to indigenous beliefs, such as the Serer religion.

Media observers in the country believe that Jammeh is trying to please the Arab world by making such an announcement. Jammeh's government has been largely isolated by the west.