Super excited – we both made the cover of two separate publications, this week, connected to The Gambia, West Africa!
A constructive recount of the first session of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission hearings looking into the July 22nd Coup and the early aftermath. The summary provides names of persons adversely mentioned as perpetrators of and/or accessory to gross human rights violations. TRRC Digest, Edition 1 – 7th January to 28th January, 2019 – ANEKED
Touray was jailed for protesting during the Yahya Jammeh regime. An environmental activist, he was pulled from his house by President Jammeh’s henchman and jailed for protesting against illegal sand mining, run by Jammeh’s brother, that was having a devastating environmental impact and also destroying ladies vegetable gardens in Habib’s village. Jason Florio.
The Solo Sandeng Memorial March, April 14th, 2018, The Gambia, 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. Today’s march would never have been possible under the former regime, without there blood being shed and/or lives lost
At the end of last year, we were commissioned by Amnesty International, West Africa, to make a documentary about the human rights defenders, and activists, who worked tirelessly, and often at their own risk, to stand up for those who had been abused and tortured – including working for the families of those who had ‘disappeared‘ – under the 22-year dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh.
Having traveled, lived, and worked, over the last 20 years, on various assignments and personal projects, in the Gambia,Florio and I were always aware of its dark underbelly. We heard ‘the stories‘ of abuse, torture, disappearances, murder even. And, in a country which depends largely on tourism – the pull of beautiful sandy beaches, year-long sunshine, languorous boat trips on the River Gambia, technicolored sunsets – you’d be extremely hard pushed, if you only visited for a holiday, to have any notion at all of the graveness of what was going on, in the small West Africa country.
“For 22 years, we documented Gambians living in a climate of fear. Their rights were denied and many were subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and widespread surveillance. But even in those dark days, there were people brave enough to stand up and challenge the abuse of power.”
To have all those stories, Jammeh’s reign of fear and terror, Florio and I had only heard whispers about over the years (until April 2016, when Gambians came to the streets to protest after the death in custody of activist Solo Sandeng), our Gambian friends only ever spoke sotto voce about what was going on, confirmed by those who had actually lived them was both incredibly disturbing and humbling. Now, with a new president, they have the freedom to speak out, have their voices heard.
We are truly thankful to every single person who shared their experiences, those who worked with us on the documentary, and Amnesty International for inviting us to make the documentary, in a place that we feel is a second home.