July 23, 2015 / 4:08 PM / 4 years ago

Gambian rapper seeks asylum in Senegal after death threats

DAKAR, July 23 (Reuters) - A Gambian rapper who recorded a song accusing authorities of growing repression and extra-judicial killings said on Thursday he had fled the West African country after receiving death threats.

Rapper Ali Cham, known by stage name “Killa Ace”, said his family began receiving inquiries about his whereabouts from Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) on June 23, the day of his new song’s release.

“My wife and I, and my manager incessantly received death threats and calls from the NIA demanding my whereabouts,” he told journalists.

Asked about the death threats, Information Minister Sheriff Bojang said: “The government of the Gambia does not respond to such trivial matters.”

Cham said he fled across the border to Senegal in July along with his family and management members. He is now applying for asylum while recording more songs for his album “Lyrical Revolution”.

“A full entire country and they say no one is allowed to speak. Not the imam, not the nation, not the journalist? Why?,” says the song “Ku Boka C Geta G”, which means roughly “all those with the cattle herd deserve milk” in Wolof.

Rights groups report a deterioration in civil liberties in Gambia this year since a failed coup plot in December that sought to overthrow long-ruling President Yahya Jammeh.

The government denies this and says it has made progress on press freedom and legal due process.

Djibril Balde from New York-based rights group International Refugee Rights Initiative says that at least 50 Gambians have asked for assistance with asylum requests in Senegal this year, a figure which already exceeds 2014, and represents a small portion of the total migrants.

Many of them are fleeing persecution under a law passed in October 2014 of “aggravated homosexuality”, he added. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alison Williams)

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