The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order.
In October 2018 The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, will resume today, Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones.
For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.
“I’m in the hot seat, right now” Edward David Singhateh, former junta Vice Chairman
“It’s not that hot…yet!” Essa M.Faal, Lead Counsel , Truth Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC)
Wednesday 16th October 2019- Day 1: Edward David Singhateh‘s testimony begins at the TRRC, The Gambia, West Africa. Singhateh, one of the instigators of the July 22nd, 1994, coup d’état with Yahya Jammeh, has been implicated in the mass execution of counter-coup army officers on November 11th, 1994. Singhateh has also been named in the murder of the former Finance Minister, Ousman Koro Ceesay, who was killed in June of 1995
Well come to No.4,Yundum Army Barracks, The Gambia – this door, to a Gambian soldiers quarters, overlooks the site on the camp where the bodies of seven murdered soldiers were exhumed. The soldiers were murdered by soldiers loyal to the former president, Yahya Jammeh, for being allegedly part of a counter-coup in November 1994. Witnesses say eleven soldiers were buried at the barracks, so far only seven have been found. Along with the bone fragments, electrical cables were also found that were used to bind the victims’ hands. The only clothing found were underwear, corroborating witness testimonies that the men were stripped almost naked before being shot.
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