One year ago, today – 22/01/2017 – on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Kairaba Avenue  (‘Pipeline’), The Gambia- – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

This time last year, we had already been in the Gambia since the beginning of January. We had traveled back down to the small West African country, to document the transition of a 22-year long dictatorship to a democracy. However, because the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, had rescinded his acceptance of the winning vote, in December 2016 – a week after Gambians had decided enough was enough and voted for Adama Barrow’s coalition government – he was refusing to step down.

Ex-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio
Then-president, Yahya Jammeh, with his ever-present security force ©Jason Florio

 

Therefore, the last month of 2016 and into those first few weeks of 2017, Gambia was in a state of flux – the unpredictability of what Jammeh would do next was almost tangible.

“We are so stressed by his (Jammeh’s) refusal to step down,

an old Gambian friend told us, “we are ready for change. He must go”, she went on. Even in the safety of our compound, she still spoke in hushed tones – the ingrained fear of 22-years of autocracy, that someone would over-hear and report her, was still very prevalent.

After much intervention from the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), on January 21st, 2017, Jammeh eventually agreed to leave the country, exiled to Equatorial Guinea (a West African country which is not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – therefore, he could not be extradited).

E-Presiden, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia - 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio
Ex-President, Yahya Jammeh, leaves the Gambia – 21/1/207 ©Jason Florio

 

#GambiaHasDecided!

Meeting people on the streets of Banjul, on the 22nd January 2017, couldn’t have been more different from the quietly uttered words, previously spoken by my friend -‘GAMBIA HAS DECIDED!‘, shouted, triumphantly, at us everywhere we went. And, #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt’s worn proudly and without fear – just one day before most people would not dare to wear them so openly. But, now Gambians knew for certain, the dictator had been flown out of the country.

A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia
A chance meeting with an inspiring bunch of people, on the streets of Banjul, Gambia

 

The above group were on the streets of the capital, welcoming back and directing the thousands of Gambians to free transportation, back to their hometowns and villages – those who had fled the country, across the river into neighbouring Senegal and beyond in fear, when Jammeh had refused to step down and ECOWAS troops massed on the border, ready to intervene.

#GambiaHasDecided - Gambian boys wearing their t-shirts for President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations, at Westfields junction, in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – President Barrow Senegal inauguration celebrations in The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio
Thousands of Gambians returning back to the Gambia, the day after ex-president Jammeh is exiled to Equatorial-Guinea ©Jason Florio

 

In October of 2017, at the invitation of Amnesty International, we spent a month making a documentary of the stories of human rights defenders, activists, and victims of the Jammeh regime – this is the trailer:  ‘We Never Gave up – Stories of Courage in Gambia’.

So much has happened in one short year, and so much more still to be done. Jason Florio and I will no doubt be back down there in the coming months, to carry on where we left off, documenting change in the Gambia. We’ll keep you posted!

 

Helen Jones-Florio

 

Follow us on Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio
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Back in The Gambia, West Africa – images ©Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

A recap, from The Gambia, West Africa – April 2018

Street Life, Serrekunda, The Gambia- young girls playing ©Helen Jones-Florio
Street life, Serrekunda, The Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio
Here we are, back in our second home…

As ever, there are lots to see and do – and, a little time out from work to reconnect and celebrate with old friends

Black and white, Samba and Fatou's wedding celebrations, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio
Samba and Fatou’s wedding celebrations, The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

And, of course, there is always the #9 pack…

 

Wolf, one of a pack of stray Gambian dogs, from the beach ©Helen Jones-Florio
‘Wolf’, one of the many waifs and strays who come to the compound for food, shelter, and a little pampering from us – Gambian dogs ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Peaceful marches…

Connected to what we were up to last year, early on in the year and later in November, we headed over to Serrekunda and joined in on the Solo Sandeng Memorial March, April 14th, 2018, which took place to commemorate the prominent activist – of the opposition party, UDP, and youth leader –  and other victims. Sandeng was murdered whilst in custody on this day in 2016, under the old dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh. His death sparked a national outcry and the beginning of the end of Jammeh’s brutal rule – Gambians had decided that enough was enough. Saturday’s march would never have been possible under the former regime, without there blood being shed and/or lives lost

Solo Sandeng Memorial March, Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio
Solo Sandeng Memorial March, The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio

 

Images from the Memorial March for murdered UDP activist, Solo Sandeng, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio
Memorial March for murdered UDP activist, Solo Sandeng, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio
Memorial March for murdered UDP activist, Solo Sandeng, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Memorial March for murdered UDP activist, Solo Sandeng, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer and documentary film maker, Jason Florio at work, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer and documentary filmmaker, Jason Florio at work, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

On Monday, 16th April, we headed over to the capital of The Gambia, Banjul, to join a peaceful vigil by families of victims of Yahya Jammeh‘s regime, to demand that the Gambian government release the bodies of exhumed victims, and to open a dialogue with the families to help keep them informed of what they are doing to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Mr Njie during a vigil, in Banjul, for victims of the Jammeh regime holding a picture of his nephew Nyass who was killed during an attempted coup in 2014 to bring down the dictatorship, Gambia © Jason Florio
Mr. Njie during a vigil, in Banjul, for victims of the Jammeh regime holding a picture of his nephew Nyass who was killed during an attempted coup in 2014 to bring down the dictatorship © Jason Florio.

 

A peaceful vigil by families of victims of Yahya Jammeh's regime, holding placards of their missing family members, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
A peaceful vigil by families of victims of Yahya Jammeh’s regime, holding pictures of their ‘disappeared’ loved ones © Helen Jones-Florio
A peaceful vigil by families of victims of Yahya Jammeh's regime © Helen Jones-Florio
A peaceful vigil by families of victims of Yahya Jammeh’s regime, Banjul, Gambia, with a police escort © Helen Jones-Florio.

 

We are looking forward to the next few weeks, here in The Gambia, to see what else our journey presents to us… feel free to follow us

@floriotravels / @jasonflorio

on Instagram – for regular photo updates.

Helen Jones-Florio

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa
Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa, Nov 2017

 

 

 

One year ago, today: 26th Jan, 2017 – The new president of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, returns home

Welcome home, Mr. President!

A new era for The Gambia, West Africa

President Adama Barrow, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow smiles at the camera during the four-hour cavalcade from Banjul International Airpor to his home, the Republic of The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

Jan 26th, 2017: A triumphant and momentous day for The Gambia, West Africa. Hundreds of thousands of euphoric Gambians lined the streets for miles – and miles! – to welcome home their new president, Adama Barrow. (Due to potential security risks, Barrow had exiled himself to neighbouring Senegal, where he was inaugurated at the Gambian Embassy, Dakar).

Gambia's new president, Adama Barrow, at Banjul Airport, The Gambia ©Jason Florio
Gambia’s new president, Adama Barrow, disembarks at Banjul Airport, The Gambia, after being sworn in in Dakar, Senegal, for security reasons ©Jason Florio

 

A new era for the Gambia - President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio
A new era for the Gambia – President Adama Barrow arrives at Banjul Airport, from Dakar, to a monumental reception! ©Helen Jones-Florio

Gambians ware ready for change. Finally, a democracy, after 22-years of the dictatorial rule of Yayha Jammeh.

President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal - an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio
President Adama Barrow returns to The Gambia, after exile in Senegal – an estimated 100,000 people lined the main roads, to welcome him home © Jason Florio

See more on floriophoto.com#GambiaHasDecided’

#GambiaHasDecided - supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio
#GambiaHasDecided – supporters of the new President Adama Barrow, The Gambia © Jason Florio

 

A young Gambian man raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
A young Gambian man, wearing a #GambiaHasDecided t-shirt, raises the Victory sign, in celebration of the new president, Adama Barrow, Westfields, The Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

See the trailer for our new documentary, made for Amnesty International

 ‘We Never Gave Up – Stories of Courage in Gambia

Documentary for Amnesty International - press release
‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia’ Documentary for Amnesty International – press release
Instagram @floriotravels / @jasonflorio
Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Instagram – Gambian woman celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Gambian celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio
Instagram – Gambians celebrate the return home of their new president, Adama Barrow ©Helen Jones-Florio

#ThrowbackSaturday: 30th December, 2014 – attempted coup, The Gambia, West Africa

 

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

In 2014, Jason Florio and I were living in the small West African country of The Gambia, when we were woken by an early morning phone call, on 30th December, from a Gambian friend who advised us to ‘stay off the streets’ as the sound of gunfire had been reported, coming from the vicinity of the State House, in Banjul – the then President Yahya Jammeh’s seat of autocratic power – and talk of an attempted coup.

Not ones to miss out on the action, we got into our truck, cameras in hand, and drove around the unusually deserted streets. It was unnerving, to say the least, to see one of the main streets, Kairaba ‘Pipeline‘ Avenue – which is always teeming with people, traffic-laden, and noisy – virtually empty.

Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt - image © Helen Jones-Florio
Quiet on the streets of Banjul, The Gambia, after failed coup attempt – image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

The conspirators were from different parts of the US and several may never have even met in person. A few had lived in the US for decades; a coup participant who was later killed in an attempted raid on the seat of government in the capital of Banjul on Dec. 30, 2014 had served in Iraq as a platoon leader with the Kentucky National Guard.‘ Read more: Business Insider