How Gambia is grappling with grotesque previous beneath Yahya Jammeh
In our collection of letters from African journalists, Sierra Leonean-Gambian author Ade Daramy displays on the impression that testimony at Gambia’s fact fee is having.
Revelation by revelation they’re studying the surprising fact about what actually occurred in the course of the 22-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh, which ended with him fleeing the nation in 2017.
The proceedings of the Reality, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRRC) have simply handed the two-year mark and the dwell day by day broadcasts have gripped the nation.
Viewers have heard tales of utmost violence and torture, arbitrary arrests and homicide, and the impression of the president’s faux well being cures.
Some issues had been all the time suspected, and there was little doubt that folks feared President Jammeh, however the extent of the crimes has come as a shock.
Listed here are 5 issues that we have now learnt thus far:
1) The president’s ‘five-star inns’ weren’t snug
Mr Jammeh was keen on joking that if anybody crossed him they’d find yourself in certainly one of his “five-star inns” – his nickname for prisons.
Witnesses, each former inmates and guards, have informed the TRRC that if an alleged crime associated to the president, the torture of prisoners was assured.
One former head of the Nationwide Intelligence Company (NIA) admitted to the fee that following Mr Jammeh’s fall he tried to cowl up the violence by having builders renovate a jail to do away with the torture chamber and many of the tools.
Many former prisoners have informed the TRRC how they had been jailed on the flimsiest of proof.
One man admitted that he was a “witness for rent”, giving proof in a number of high-profile circumstances (together with alleged coup plots that led to folks being executed) when he had no data of the occasions. In all, he mentioned he gave 32 paid-for statements in opposition to 12 folks.
2) Informants had been all over the place
A number of witnesses have given proof about how they had been detained after somebody handed their identify on.
Omar Jatta was a sufferer of the NIA’s “particular therapy”. He informed the fee that he was arrested in 1995, taken to the NIA, undressed and electrocuted.
He was detained as a result of he had been seen chatting with a veteran opposition politician at a naming ceremony.
I turned conscious of the concern of informants after attending a dinner-dance occasion in 1998. A comic did an ideal impression of President Jammeh, however I used to be the one viewers member out of 300 who was in stitches.
Everybody else simply stared on the ground. Later, somebody defined: “You by no means know who’s watching.”
3) Jammeh’s paranoia led to homicide
A gaggle of troopers confessed to the seize and killing of over 50 African migrants, together with 44 Ghanaians who, in July 2005, made the error of making an attempt to journey by means of the nation on their option to Europe.
They had been arrested by safety forces when their boat docked and with no proof and no trial they had been accused of being mercenaries employed for a doable coup try.
Over the next 10 days, virtually all of these detained had been killed in The Gambia or taken throughout the border into Senegal and shot and their our bodies dumped in wells.
One soldier recounted how, simply earlier than he was shot, one of many migrants requested if he might attain into his pocket and retrieve one thing. It turned out to be a $100 invoice which he handed to the soldier saying: “I clearly will not be capable to spend this, you may have it.”
The soldier admitted that he took it and spent.
The Ghanaian shoe vendor taking over an ex-dictator
4) Jammeh’s ‘HIV sufferers’ stripped bare
In certainly one of his most outlandish claims, President Jammeh mentioned in 2007 that he had a treatment for HIV, bronchial asthma and diabetes.
He then took sufferers off typical antiretroviral remedies and enrolled them in his Presidential Various Remedy Programme.
One witness, who was HIV-positive, mentioned he needed to strip bare. He then had a lotion rubbed on to his physique and was given one thing to drink.
The sufferers who didn’t die are nonetheless HIV-positive and now present process typical therapy.
5) The presidential convoy was lethal
When the president was on the street all visitors needed to give means. Up to now, so regular however there have been severe penalties for many who failed to maneuver.
The TRRC has heard from a number of witnesses who had been left disabled after not getting out of the way in which of the presidential convoy quick sufficient. Others died.
Generally, troopers would break free from the stream of autos to beat up drivers or pedestrians who didn’t transfer in time.
Whereas the reality about a few of what occurred now could also be recognized, it’s nonetheless not clear what room there may be for reconciliation”
Mr Jammeh’s former household waiter was certainly one of many to touch upon his behavior of throwing biscuits to crowds because the convoy swept previous.
Folks scrambling to select up the snacks would then get run over by different dashing vehicles within the entourage. The witness estimated that 20 had been killed on this means between 2001 and 2008.
The tales which have come out from witnesses in addition to perpetrators have led Gambians to mirror on what they knew of the nation and themselves.
Earlier than the TRRC it was frequent to listen to folks say that foreigners should have been behind any alleged atrocities. However not one self-confessed killer or torturer has proved to be from outdoors the nation.
Whereas the reality about a few of what occurred might now be recognized, it’s nonetheless not clear what room there may be for reconciliation.
The fee has a minimum of one other six months to run and solely after its report is printed will there be a ultimate reckoning with The Gambia’s violent and troubled previous.
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- Yahya Jammeh