The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

TRRC billboard, depicting portraits from ‘Gambia – victims. and resisters’ Image ©Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

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. 

Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of a man wearing a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio
A man wears a t-shirt with a photo of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Dedyra Hydara ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

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. 

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PostiveChange

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.

  • 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
  • Gambia - victims and resisters: portrait of Ya Mammie Ceesay whose son was murdered by the former regime of Yahya Jammeh ©Jason Florio
  • Stories Behind Doors, The Gambia, West Africa - the doorway to Mr. Chune's home. His 14 year old son was shot dead by Gambia security forces April 10th, 2000 © Helen Jones-Florio
  • Bintu was detained and raped by 3 masked security officers - Gambia victims and resisters portraits ©Jason Florio
  • Gambia Victims and Resisters of a Regime – ©Jason Florio, the Gambia

#StoriesBehindDoors

Current Location: June 2020 – easing lockdown in the UK

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Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.
Jason Florio making #Portraits4PositiveChange, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio.

Photo of the Day: Edward Singhateh testifies at the TRRC, The Gambia

Edward David Singhateh testifies before the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), The Gambia, West Africa ©Jason Florio

“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

The Gambia – victims, and resisters

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Young Gambian men watching Edward David Singhateh testify before the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC), The Gambia, West Africa ©Helen Jones-Florio

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Stories Behind Doors, the Gambia

#StoriesBehindDoors – Yundum Army Barracks, the Gambia ©Helen Jones-Florio – Instagram @doors_facades_florio

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.

The exhumation findings of 7 murdered soldiers at Yundum Barrack, the Gambia. Image © Jason Florio / See more on Instagram

#StoriesBehindDoors

The families of the murdered Gambian soldiers gather next to the exhumation site at Yundum Army Barrack, the Gambia, along with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commissioners (TRRC). Image © Jason Florio – see more on Instagram

Currently working in the Gambia – April-May 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

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Cover Shots: Jason Florio & Helen Jones-Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

Cover shot © Jason Florio for FD Persoonlijk Magazine ‘Environment & Climate – the resurrection of Han Stiphout’

Ten years ago Han Stiphout (64) had two castles in Limberg and a bid for his company of more €20 million. Just before the sale, he went bankrupt. Now he is picking up again and building recycling plants in The Gambia and Senegal words by Hella Hueck / FD Persoonlijk Magazine + all feature images © Jason Florio

– Published 19th April 2019

Super excited – we both made the cover of two separate publications, this week, connected to The Gambia, West Africa!



Cover shot © Helen Jones-Florio (Mile2 Prison, Gambia)ANEKED Gambia launches the first edition of the TRRC Digest which gives a summary of the first session of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission hearings.



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


– published 17th April 2019



Currently working in the Gambia – April 2019

Gambia – Victims, and Resisters of a Regime

#Portraits4PositiveChange

Available for assignments & for image licensing – Contact here

floriophoto.com

@doors_facades_florio / @jasonflorioio / @floriotravels – Instagram

Jason Florio – Vimeo

floriophotoNYC – Twitter

PhotoTellStories – FB