The Gambia: the right to freedom from torture, murder, forced disappearance, incarceration and exile, for every Gambian.
By Mathew K Jallow
As an inter-party round-table discussion panel gets underway at the IEC, a significant element is missing; Ousainou Darboe, UDP party leader; Gambia’s largest opposition. No one knows what the Inter-party discussions are about yet, what is clear is that with leaders of the main opposition illegally held in detention for exercising their constitutional rights, it is not the time to discuss any issue around the 2016 elections. But, if the discussions center on the unconditional freedom of UDP party leader, Ousainou Darboe and other UDP officials in detention, the topic is right, but the meeting is held in the wrong place. The issue of paramount importance for discussion by the remaining right, is the freedom of every incarcerated UDP officials, and the release of the corpses of Solo Sandeng, Fatoumata Jawara and Fatou Camara, arrested and tortured to death for exercising their constitutional right to protest. In order to stay in power, Yahya Jammeh has exercised a level of brutality reminiscent of the era of Uganda’s General Idi Amin Dada. And copying General Idi Amin, Yahya Jammeh is feeding human corpses to his crocodiles, throwing victims in deep dry wells, cutting off females breasts, arresting citizens, disappearing victims, breaking victim necks, executing by firing squad, shooting victims, tying victims upside down by their ankles; Yahya Jammeh’s trained murderers have used every known and still unknown way to eliminate innocent Gambians. Yahya Jammeh’s killing spree; arrests, torture, disappearances, illegal detention, public executions and murders began in November 1994, with the execution of military officers; Basirou Barrow, Dot Faal, Alpha Jallow, and several others. Additionally, the regime, on Yahya Jammeh’s orders, killed forty other military officers, the very same day. But this was only the beginning of Yahya Jammeh’s rampage of killing, torturing, and disappearing of innocent citizens. The execution of ten military officers by firing squad may be the first of the atrocities committed on the orders of Yahya Jammeh, but it is far from the last or worst. The death in exile, of preeminent Gambians, Hon Buba M Baldeh, Hon Foday Makalo and venerable Kukoi Samba Sanyang, and Yahya Jammeh’s refusal of their decent burial home in the Gambia, is the meanest anyone has ever seen.
In June 1995, civilian Finance Minister, Koro Ceesay’s hands were tied behind his back, placed in back seat of his government issued Mercedes Benz, doused in petrol and set on fire. His death, under the direction and supervision of Edward Singateh, was the worst the Gambian had ever seen. The level of animal cruelty Koro Ceesat suffered was alien to Gambians, and not even General Idi Amin Dada had done worst. Koro Ceesay’s parents; the mom, a retired teacher and a National Assembly member, and dad, a retired school principal, were devastated, and migrated to the US, where both died last year in Detroit, Michigan, heart-broken, months after each other. And in April 2000, sixteen high and secondary school students demonstrating the death of one and rape of a female student by security forces, were massacre by security forces. This was followed by the December 2004, assassination of Deida Hydara, President of the Gambia Press Union, an act that took the entire nation and the world by surprise. In July 2005, 44 Ghanaian immigrants travelling to Spain, were arrested in the high sea off the Gambian coast, brought to land, and summarily executed along with several other ECOWAS nationals. Then in April 2006, eight military and security personnel, including Daba Marenah were executed in cold blood. And by August 2006, over twenty citizens, mostly from the Fonis, were reported missing after their arrest and detention by security forces on the orders of Yahya Jammeh. November 2006, was not less vicious, with sixteen mysterious poison deaths reported in Mile 2 Prison. In March 2009, more than one thousand elderly men and women, classified as witches, were rounded up all around the country, and forced to drink a hallucinogen concoction, resulting in the death of ten and hospitalization of several dozen. In June 2009, about dozen journalists rounded and detained. The August 2012, execution of between nine and twenty six Mile Two Prison inmates, stunned Gambians and made headline news all around the world.
By 2013, with so many murders, execution, tortures of innocent Gambians and non-Gambians under Yahya Jammeh’s belt, April of that year saw the Gambian regime change tactics with the abduction of Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham in Senegal. The two have never been seen since. The December 2014, rounding up of gays and their paraded on national television and their subsequently incarcerated also made headline news. But of all the murders and disappearances, none has made as much international news as that of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, and Red Cross worker Kanjiba Kanyi, both detained since 2000. But what may seem bizarre, unbelievable and out of mediaeval times, are the murders of nearly thirty children in human sacrifice rituals, in conformity with Yahya Jammeh’s voodoos deities. Over the years, several media houses were torched and burnt to the ground and journalist forced to flee to the safety of Senegal and distant lands. Yahya Jammeh’s brief lull from murders of innocent citizens was broken by the execution of two elderly Foni brothers who opposed the slave labor on Yahya Jammeh’s farms and were vocal about it. Meanwhile, throughout the years, exodus from the Gambia, of thousands of the country’s most educated; lawyers, diplomats, bureaucrats, academics and other professionals and ordinary citizens continues unabated. In Banjul two Gambians of dual US citizenship, kidnapped by Yahya Jammeh’s security agents, Alhaji Ceesay and Ebrima Jobe have not been heard from in three years. And recently, last month, Gambia Labor leader, Sheriff Dibba was murdered under the custody of security agents. Since November 1994, the killings in Gambia have never stopped, the executions continue, the disappearance unabated, and exodus continues. And last week, UDP party officials, Solo Sandeng, Fatoumata Jawara and Fatou Camara sparked a civil disobedience that was long overdue. Between these cases of known atrocities, hundreds of Gambians have been killed or died as in the case of nearly five hundred deaths in Mile two prison. And as long as Yahya Jammeh remains in power, the killing and dying will continue, citizens will flee, and it will get worst in the country. In no other country in Africa would so many people be killed and abused without the citizens forcing political change. Since 1994, Gambians have stood by in fear as one person, Yahya Jammeh, tortures, kills, executes and incarcerates citizens, with impunity. It has to end now. The Gambian people must lose their fear and stand up, proud and dignified, as our dead ancestors were. It is enough of living in terror and constant fear. Yahya Jammeh Must Go.