Several victims have gathered at the Gambia’s Supreme Court gate on Tuesday to call on government to speed up in serving justice to them or to their relatives who were tortured, disappeared or killed during twenty-two year rule of former president, Yahya Jammeh.
The vigil was organized by the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations to commemorate the loss of those forcibly disappeared and killed during the dictatorship.
Zeinab Lowe, while reading a statement, said the Victim Center with the families of forcibly disappeared has petitioned the interior ministry for the truth.
“The time for waiting is over. The truth must be told and the remains of those exhumed must be returned to their families for befitting burials,” she said.
In 2017, the Gambian police had exhumed dead bodies in order to ascertain the causes of their deaths.
Mammie Ceesay, whose son was confirmed dead, last year after he went missing since 2013, said she has always been traumatized.
“We are out here to pressure the government to deliver justice for the victims and their families. We want justice. I still don’t know where my son is but I believed that he has been killed,” she told Kerr Fatou.
She emphasized that they will continue demanding for justice until such time that the government positively responds.
“The government says, they are setting up TRRC and we will have to wait for that because everything has a procedure. We will listen to them and see what is going to happen but we will not let it go,” she said.
She is the mother of Alhagie Mamut Ceesay, a Gambia-US citizen who went missing along with his friend, Ebou Jobe five years ago while on visit to the West African state.
Victims conducted a procession along the streets of Banjul chanting ‘we want justice, we need it now’ while being escorted by the police.
Alagie Jaja Nyass was another victim of the previous government. He was a member of the Gambia Armed Forces before leaving for the United Kingdom fifteen years ago. He arrived in the country among other military officers on a coup mission but was gunned down in a failed attempt which occurred in Banjul on the night of December 30th in 2014.
His cousin Mamoudou Njie, said his body was exhumed last year, 2017.
“The body was exhumed and I was there present. When they exhumed the bodies, the police told us that they will be doing their normal procedures after which they will inform us. One year now, we didn’t hear anything from them,” he said.
Njie calls on government to give back the corpses of their relatives in order to accord them a befitting burial in line with religious rites.
He claimed that he was detained at the National Intelligence Agency for some time where he sustained fracture on his hip just because he was a relative. He said Nyass’s mother was also detained for seven months at the intelligence unit which is causing health implications for her at the moment.
“The government’s move towards justice delivery is very slow definitely. They should be quick in what they are doing,” he said
Modou Ngum has lost one eye while in state custody as a result of torture. He was also at the vigil to strengthen the call.
“They flogged us, beaten us mercilessly, electrified us that night, (referring to 14th April, 2016). I lost one of my eyes. We are not well. Every one or two months our colleagues are dying. We are appealing to government to look after us and give us a better treatment,” he said.
Ngum was among more than 20 others who were arrested for staging a peaceful protest calling for electoral reforms on the 14h April, 2016 led by a political activist, Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
Sandeng died the very night they were arrested, with the autopsy report confirming that it was as result of torture.
Speaking for the Gambia government at the scene, Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, executive secretary to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) said they will make sure justice is done for the victims.
“I don’t know whether everyone will get the type of justice they are thinking because I don’t know what they are thinking but we will manage the process to make sure everything goes well,” he said.
He added that they are setting up the commission as they are recruiting staff for the secretariat.