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 However, because the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, had rescinded his acceptance of the winning vote, in December 2016 – a week after Gambians had decided enough was enough and voted for Adama Barrow’s coalition government –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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The Gambia – Photographer/filmmaker, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange

 Jason Florio, with Yusepha Mbye, who was shot in the back by security forces in 2000 student protest - making #Portraits4PositiveChange #Gambia - image, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio – making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia – image, Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio

 

‘Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’
#portraits4positivechange

On location, in The Gambia: Yesterday Jason Florio photographed Yusepha, who was shot in the back by the Yahya Jammeh regime’s security forces, during a peaceful student protest in April 2000. He is paralyzed from the neck down. He was just 18 years old.

The April 2000 Gambian student massacre was the killing of 14 people (and one accidental death) by Gambian police officers and soldiers on the 10 April 2000 at a student protest in Banjul, the Gambia.

Please check out our GoFundMe page for more info on this project, or to donate/share.

 

Jugana Susso, was arrested and detained during a peaceful demonstration by President Jammeh's feared security services. She was tortured and beaten so badly on her legs she has problems walking even around her own home ©Jason Florio
Jugana Susso, was arrested and detained during a peaceful demonstration by President Jammeh’s feared security services ©Jason Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange – GoFundMe: ‘Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’ Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio

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 the families, #Banjul, The #Gambia ©Jason Florio
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 the families, Banjul, The Gambia ©Jason Florio.

 

Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio – photographers, and filmmakers

Huge thanks you to everyone who has donated and supported our GoFundMe campaign, so far – ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime‘, #Portraits4PositiveChangeThe portraits we make will be used as tools of advocacy, and in exhibitions, to help bring the former dictator, Yahya Jammeh, to justice.

I believe that these stories must be told to ensure the greatest chance of achieving justice and reconciliation. GFM donor, T.Kellow

We are edging closer to reaching our GFM goal. Please share, and/or donate, if you can (every spare $5 will be greatly appreciated), be part of the change, and help us to carry on making an extensive, important, body of work, in The Gambia.

A work-in-progress…

See the portraits which have been produced, so far, in The Gambia (and Senegal) on Jason Florio’s website, floriophoto.com

Portrait: Fatoumatta Sandeng, daughter of murdered Gambian opposition leader, Solo Sandeng. She escaped into exile to Senegal after her father's murder in 2016 - at the hands of Yahya Jammeh's security forces - fearful that she would be targeted next ©Jason Florio
Fatoumatta Sandeng, daughter of murdered Gambian opposition leader, Solo Sandeng. She escaped into exile to Senegal after her father’s murder in 2016 – at the hands of Yahya Jammeh’s security forces – fearful that she would be targeted next ©Jason Florio.

‘Jason is making important work, again!’ GFM donor Julie Grahame/aCurator

Jason Florio photographs Ballo Kanteh - an ex-political prisoner, he shows the burns he suffered after melted plastic was dripped onto his skin by Jammeh's hit-squad, the Junglers. Kanteh spent 18-year detention at the notorious Mile 2 prison - for the first two years, he was held in solitary confinement in a pitch dark cell, which has permanently damaged his eyesight. Image © Helen Jones-Florio
Jason Florio photographs Ballo Kanteh – an ex-political prisoner, he shows the burns he suffered after melted plastic was dripped onto his skin by Jammeh’s hit-squad, the Junglers. Kanteh spent 18-year detention at the notorious Mile 2 prison – for the first two years, he was held in solitary confinement in a pitch dark cell, which has permanently damaged his eyesight. Image © Helen Jones-Florio

 

Heartfelt thanks, to everyone

The Florios ❤️

#Portraits4PositiveChange

_____

December 2018-January 2019

We will be in The Gambia, West Africa, end of November, and available for assignments in the region 

Please  contact us here or via Jason’s website

______

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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

 

 

 

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