The Gambia – Portraits of Victims and the TRRC update, July 2019

Ya Mammie Ceesay & Alhajie Ceesay, The Gambia ©Jason Florio

First and foremost, in light of the shocking and distressing revelations coming out of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in The Gambia over the past couple of days, we would like to extend our love and healing thoughts to all of the families who have listened to the testimonies of two men, Lieutenant Malik Jatta, and Omar Jallow (AKA Oya) – who were members of the ex-president, Yahya Jammeh’s assassination squad, ‘The Junglers’ – confess, often in explicit detail, their involvement in multiple killings on the command ex-president Yahya Jammeh; namely, the attendant families loved ones. And, particularly pertinent to our on-going series of portraits and filming testimonies:

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters of a regime’

Excerpt from our recording with Ya Mammie Ceesay & Alhajie Ceesay, mother and father of disappeared Gambian-American businessman, Alhaji Mamut Ceesay: Alhaji returned to The Gambia in 2013 with his friend Ebou Jobe to set up a business, but they were allegedly robbed of their money by National Intelligence Agency (NIA) heads, who later told President Jammeh the businessmen were in The Gambia to overthrow his regime. The two were then allegedly murdered on Jammeh’s command. Much to the family’s dismay, their bodies have never been found.

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Ya Mammie Ceesay whose son was murdered by the former regime of Yahya Jammeh ©Jason Florio
Ya Mammie Ceesay, The Gambia ©Jason Florio

UPDATE from TRRC – July 2019, Omar Jallow (alias Oya), former Jungler, testifies: “We covered them up with plastic bags and strangled them until they die and because Yahya Jammeh has given orders that we cut them into pieces, Malick Manga and Fansu Nyabally cut off the heads of Ebou and Mamud. After completing the digging, we put them in the ditch and we returned to Kanilai,” he said.

These are just a few of the portraits which we have been working on over the last few years, from the on-going series ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’. However, all of the people featured here (aside from Imam Baba Leigh) have spent years of anguish, hearing only rumours about what may have happened to their loved ones. Everyone who sat for a portrait graciously allowed us to film them sharing their stories with us – openly and candidly. All of which, without exception, were profoundly heart-rending to hear. The common thread throughout was their utmost need to know the truth of what had truly happened to those who had been disappeared or murdered. And, to find out the whereabouts of their loved ones remains so that they can finally lay them to rest. Only then can the healing process truly begin. Sadly, as events unfold, it is now known that many of the bodies were thrown into wells or buried in unmarked graves.

A man wears a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara, who was assassinated in 2004 ©Jason Florio

Deyda Hydara, co-founder of The Point newspaper was an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to journalists and the media. On December 14, 2004, he was assassinated in his car by gunmen as he was driving home. Two of his colleagues who were also with him were injured in the shooting 

UPDATE from TRRC – July 2019: It took 15 years to have a concrete answer to the question: “Who Killed Deyda Hydara?” displayed on The Point newspaper front page banner since 2004. Lt. Malick Jatta of The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) and ex-Jungler testifies: “I shot at him… my colleagues Alieu Jeng and Sana Manjang also fired,” he said at the TRRC, noting that they were all quiet throughout their journey back to Kanilai without a single stop. The witness added that he only came to know in the following day that the person shot was actually Deyda Hydara.

'Gambia - victims and resisters' : portrait of Fatou Jaiteh & Modou Lamin Jammeh - mother and son of murdered 'brother' of Yahya Jammeh, Haruna Jammeh ©Jason Florio
Fatou Jaiteh & Modou Lamin Jammeh ©Jason Florio

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Excerpt from our recording with Fatou Jaiteh & Modou Lamin Jammeh, wife and son of Haruna Jammeh: President Jammeh allegedly ordered the murder of his cousin (‘brother’), Haruna, after he criticized Jammeh for his abuse of power. Haruna’s sister, Massie, was murdered soon after by Jammeh’s henchmen after she spoke out about her brother’s disappearance. A former member of Jammeh’s hit squad, the ‘Junglers’ now in Germany spoke openly on a Gambian radio station about witnessing the murders.

UPDATE from TRRC – July 2019, Omar Jallow (alias Oya), former Jungler, testifies: ‘On Haruna Jammeh’s death, Jungler Jallow said Haruna was arrested and detained at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) where he (Jallow), Sana Manjang, Alieu Jeng and Solo Bojang picked him and took him to Kanilai. “On our way to Kanilai, we drove through the bush and Sana Manjang brought out a rope and asked me and Alieu Jeng to tie it on Haruna’s neck. We did and he asked us to pull the rope, which we did, and he (Sana) stamped him on his neck and he died.” He further confessed that Haruna was their friend and they used to eat with him in his house, adding the order was from Yahya Jammeh’ The Point newspaper.

Later, when asked what they did with Haruna’s body, Jallow replied: “We took the body to the same well where these Ghanaians were killed. We took him to that well and threw him there,”

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Bintu Tunkara, daughter of murdered Gambian Lamin Tunkara, holding the only photo she has of him on her mothers cell phone ©Jason Florio
Bintu Tunkara ©Jason Florio

Excerpt from our recording with Bintu’s mother, Adama Conteh: 13-year-old Bintu, holding her mother’s phone with a photo of her father of Lamin Tunkara – the father she never got the chance to meet. Gambian, Tunkara, was murdered in July 2005 when Adama was 7 months pregnant, with Bintu. They had been married for less than a year. When Lamin first went missing, Adama said “I  searched everywhere – Mile 2 prison, other prisons, police stations, NIA... they warned me to “go home if you do not want any trouble…stay, and you will have trouble”. I did not eat or wash for one week…he (Lamin) loved me, he took care of me.” She searched for over 1 year. ” Despite the many rumours, “I would not accept, nor would his father, that his son, my husband was dead“. 

It later transpired that Lamin was part of a group of almost 50 Ghanaians and other West African migrants bound for Europe who was arrested and slaughtered by the Gambian security forces. There was one sole survivor, Martin Kyere, who has now come forward to testify. “The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from Gambia’s President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.”

UPDATE from TRRC – July 2019, Corporal Omar A. Jallow testifies: “We were told they were mercenaries,” Jatta said, adding that he shot and killed one of the migrants. “I heard people shouting in the forest saying ‘save us, Jesus.’” Jallow told the TRRC that Lt Col Solo Bojang, the leader of the operation, told the men that “the order from Yahya Jammeh is that they are all to be executed.” It is believed that Lamin Tunkara was amongst the Ghanaians, Nigerians, Togolese, and Ivory Coast nationals were unlawfully killed. 

#Jammeh2Justice

Imam Baba Leigh, disappeared, held prisoner and tortured by Yahya Jammeh regime, The Gambia ©jason florio
Imam Baba Leigh ©Jason Florio

Excerpt from our recording with Imam Baba Leigh: The imam spoke out against President Jammeh’s proposed execution of multiple prisoners. Leigh was then abducted and tortured, on Jammeh’s orders, and ‘disappeared’ for five months, before being released without charge. ‘Today is the day you die (he said that during his imprisonment he was threatened with death on multiple occasions)… they made me dig a big hole which I was then told to get into. “This is your grave,” they said…and then they buried me up to my neck’ IBL

UPDATE from TRRC – July 2019, Omar Jallow (alias Oya), former Jungler, testifies: “I participated in the torture of Imam Baba Leigh, Imam Bakawsu (Fofana) and another Imam, in the torture of the 30th December coup plotters” He went on to say “On the torture of Imam Baba Leigh after he (Leigh) was interrogated……, we were ordered by Nuah Badjie to torture him. We beat him using sticks, elastic pipes and I saw blood and bruises on him. The torture lasted for about half an hour.” Foroyaa Newspaper

Watch:

‘We Never Gave Up – stories of Courage in Gambia’

'Gambia - victims and resisters' : portrait of Fatou Suwaa widow of murdered army signal officer Mustafa Colley ©Jason Florio
Fatou Suwaa ©Jason Florio

Excerpt from our recording with Fatou Suwaa, widow of former army signal officer Mustafa Colley: In 2012 Mustafa was found with a broken neck at the wheel of a taxi he had bought to earn extra money. Reports in the press said General Saul Badjie heard that Mustafa had been discussing the murder of Sergeant Ello Jallow, who had been killed for allegedly having an affair with President Jammeh’s wife. Baji was then instructed by Jammeh to have Mustafa murdered by his hit squad, the ‘Junglers’.

UPDATE: TRRC – July 2019 Omar Jallow (alias Oya), former Jungler, testifies: Staff Sergeant Jallow also admitted participating in the killing of Baba Jobe, Ndour Cham, 9 death row inmates, Haruna Jammeh (a brother to Yahya Jammeh), Mustapha Colley, Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham, among others. (At Mile2 Prison) “We lined-up our vehicles and Nuha Badjie and our leaders went in and took out 9 inmates from their cells,” he said. “When we got to the Range, we all came down and brought them down one by one. We put nylon plastic on their heads and cover them up. We suffocated them one by one until they all died. There was only one female who was Tabara Samba,” he said. “After killing them, we took them to the bush and throw them into a well,”

Visit Jason Florio’s website to see more from our on-going series

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

Watch the testimonies from the TRRC – via QTV’s channel – on Youtube.

All images © Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio. Text by Helen Jones-Florio.

‘Portraits for Positive Change’ at the TRRC – donated by the British High Commission, The Gambia ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

With thanks for their support: The Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations; The Goethe Institut; The British High Commission in The Gambia; Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission


Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

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#Portraits4PositiveChange The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio

Ebrima Jabang 'Gambia - Victims and Resisters of a Regime' ©Jason Florio #Portraits4PositiveChange, Victims of Yahya Jammeh
Ebrima Jabang ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime’ ©Jason Florio

 

#Portraits4PositiveChange

The Gambia

© Jason Florio

Ebrima Jabang, age 64, was arrested along with the opposition activist, Solo Sandeng, during the April 14th, 2016 peaceful protest for electoral reform. He was taken to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters, tied face down on a table and tortured by YahyaJammeh’s personal hit squad, the Junglers, permanently losing the sight in his right eye among other internal injuries. Jabang said that he could hear the screams of Solo Sandeng, who was being tortured in another room. Tragically, Sandeng died on the same day, as a result of being tortured. See more of this work-in-progress: floriophoto.com

Photographer, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange,Gambia, West Africa - victims of Yahya Jammeh © Helen Jones-Florio
Photographer, Jason Florio, making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia © Helen Jones-Florio.

 

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’

Exhibition News: We will be holding the first photography exhibition, in the Gambia, from this particular body of work, early in March 2019. We are really looking forward to exhibiting in the Gambia, again.

Watch this space for more information on that, shortly!

The Florios (Helen & Jason)

Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio - wet plate collodion print portrait courtesy of Marcin Andrzejewski
Helen Jones-Florio & Jason Florio – wet plate collodion print courtesy of Marcin Andrzejewski.

 

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

2019 – Currently working on

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime’

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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#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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GoFundMe: Gambia-Victims, and Resisters of a Regime – #Portraits4PositiveChange ©Jason Florio

Portrait of ex-Mile2 prisoner, Ballo Kanteh, the Gambia ©Jason Florio
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 ©Jason Florio

GoFundMe: The Gambia – Victims, and Resister of a Regime  

  • To face the past, victims, and resisters, of the Jammeh regime come forward – #Portraits4PostiveChange

‘In a global political climate where authoritarian rule is on the rise  – where autocratic leaders crush dissent, and opposition, with brutality and little or no regard for human rights – it is essential to keep telling the stories of the victims of such regimes.

Your support will enable us to continue our work, to create an extensive body of portraits of the victims of the 22-year brutal dictatorship of the Yahya Jammeh’s regime, as a tool for positive change and advocacy…’Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio 

The wife and son of Harouna Jammeh, who was murdered along with his sister on the orders of his brother, former president Yahya Jammeh ©Jason Florio
The wife and son of Harouna Jammeh, who was murdered along with his sister on the orders of his brother, former president Yahya Jammeh. Harouna’s daughter, Ayeshah Jammeh, has since co-founded the ‘Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations‘ – Image ©Jason Florio 

 

Please check out our GoFundMe campaign to find out more and why this is so important… and help spread the word, by sharing on social media. We’ll thank everyone, individually. And, if you donate, we’ll send you a handmade postcard, once we get to the Gambia. 

GoFund Me #Portraits4PostiveChange Gambia

 

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