How Gambia is grappling with gruesome past under Yahya Jammeh

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A #IamToufah campaign supporter, listening to former Gambian beauty queen, Fatou Jallow, testifying before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Banjul on October 31, 2019picture copyrightAFP
picture captionFatou Jallow gave proof to the fee in 2019 about how she was once sexually assaulted by means of President Yahya Jammeh
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In our collection of letters from African newshounds, Sierra Leonean-Gambian author Ade Daramy displays at the have an effect on that testimony at Gambia’s reality fee is having.

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Gambians are being pressured to reconsider their self-image as a at ease, peace-loving other people, who survive what’s advertised to vacationers because the “Smiling Coast”.

Revelation by means of revelation they’re studying the stunning reality about what actually took place throughout the 22-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh, which ended with him fleeing the rustic in 2017.

The court cases of the Fact, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRRC) have simply handed the two-year mark and the reside day by day pronounces have gripped the country.

Audience have heard tales of utmost violence and torture, arbitrary arrests and homicide, and the have an effect on of the president’s faux well being remedies.

Yahya Jammeh pictured in November 2016, the month before he lost electionspicture copyrightAFP
picture captionYahya Jammeh refused to just accept his surprise defeat in December 2016 and was once pressured from energy

Some issues had been at all times suspected, and there was once for sure that folks feared President Jammeh, however the extent of the crimes has come as a marvel.

Listed below are 5 issues that we’ve got learnt thus far:

1) The president’s ‘five-star inns’ weren’t relaxed

Mr Jammeh was once keen on joking that if any person crossed him they’d finally end up in one in all his “five-star inns” – his nickname for prisons.

Witnesses, each former inmates and guards, have instructed the TRRC that if an alleged crime associated with the president, the torture of prisoners was once assured.

One former head of the Nationwide Intelligence Company (NIA) admitted to the fee that following Mr Jammeh’s fall he attempted to hide up the violence by means of having developers renovate a jail to eliminate the torture chamber and lots of the apparatus.

A band playing at the launch of the TRRC next to a banner saying, "Never again" - October 2018picture copyrightAFP
picture captionIt’s was hoping that the proof will save you long run attrocities

Many former prisoners have instructed the TRRC how they had been jailed at the flimsiest of proof.

One guy admitted that he was once a “witness for rent”, giving proof in numerous high-profile instances (together with alleged coup plots that resulted in other people being completed) when he had no wisdom of the occasions. In all, he mentioned he gave 32 paid-for statements towards 12 other people.

2) Informants had been all over

A number of witnesses have given proof about how they had been detained after somebody handed their title on.

Omar Jatta was once a sufferer of the NIA’s “particular remedy”. He instructed the fee that he was once arrested in 1995, taken to the NIA, undressed and electrocuted.

media caption‘I refused to marry Yahya Jammeh – then he raped me’

He was once detained as a result of he were observed chatting with a veteran opposition baby-kisser at a naming rite.

I become acutely aware of the concern of informants after attending a dinner-dance tournament in 1998. A comic did an ideal affect of President Jammeh, however I used to be the one target audience member out of 300 who was once in stitches.

Everybody else simply stared on the flooring. Later, somebody defined: “You by no means know who is staring at.”

three) Jammeh’s paranoia resulted in homicide

A bunch of squaddies confessed to the seize and killing of over 50 African migrants, together with 44 Ghanaians who, in July 2005, made the error of looking to shuttle throughout the nation on their option to Europe.

They had been arrested by means of safety forces when their boat docked and without a proof and no trial they had been accused of being mercenaries employed for a conceivable coup strive.

Yahya Jammeh with supporterspicture copyrightAFP
picture captionThe previous president was once fearful about attainable coup plots

Over the next 10 days, nearly all of the ones detained had been killed in The Gambia or taken around the border into Senegal and shot and their our bodies dumped in wells.

One soldier recounted how, simply sooner than he was once shot, one of the most migrants requested if he may succeed in into his pocket and retrieve one thing. It became out to be a $100 invoice which he passed to the soldier announcing: “I clearly will be unable to spend this, you’ll have it.”

The soldier admitted that he took it and spent.

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four) Jammeh’s ‘HIV sufferers’ stripped bare

In one in all his maximum outlandish claims, President Jammeh mentioned in 2007 that he had a treatment for HIV, bronchial asthma and diabetes.

He then took sufferers off standard antiretroviral remedies and enrolled them in his Presidential Choice Remedy Programme.

One witness, who was once HIV-positive, mentioned he needed to strip bare. He then had a lotion rubbed directly to his frame and was once given one thing to drink.

The sufferers who didn’t die are nonetheless HIV-positive and now present process standard remedy.

five) The presidential convoy was once fatal

When the president was once at the street all visitors needed to give method. To this point, so commonplace however there have been critical penalties for many who failed to transport.

The TRRC has heard from a number of witnesses who had been left disabled after now not getting out of the best way of the presidential convoy speedy sufficient. Others died.

Every so often, squaddies would break free from the movement of cars to overcome up drivers or pedestrians who didn’t transfer in time.

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Ade Daramy

Ade Daramy

Whilst the reality about a few of what took place now could also be identified, it’s nonetheless now not transparent what room there’s for reconciliation”

Ade Daramy
Journalist
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Mr Jammeh’s former kinfolk waiter was once one of the to touch upon his addiction of throwing biscuits to crowds because the convoy swept previous.

Folks scrambling to select up the snacks would then get run over by means of different dashing vehicles within the entourage. The witness estimated that 20 had been killed on this method between 2001 and 2008.

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The tales that experience pop out from witnesses in addition to perpetrators have led Gambians to mirror on what they knew of the rustic and themselves.

Ahead of the TRRC it was once commonplace to listen to other people say that foreigners will have to had been at the back of any alleged atrocities. However now not one self-confessed killer or torturer has proved to be from out of doors the rustic.

Whilst the reality about a few of what took place would possibly now be identified, it’s nonetheless now not transparent what room there’s for reconciliation.

The fee has no less than some other six months to run and most effective after its document is printed will there be a last reckoning with The Gambia’s violent and afflicted previous.

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Extra Letters from Africa:

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Comparable Subjects

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  • The Gambia
  • Yahya Jammeh
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