In our sequence of letters from African journalists, Sierra Leonean-Gambian author Ade Daramy displays on the affect that testimony at Gambia’s reality fee is having.
Gambians are being compelled to re-evaluate their self-image as a relaxed, peace-loving individuals, who reside on what’s marketed to vacationers because the “Smiling Coast”.
Revelation by revelation they’re studying the surprising reality about what actually occurred through the 22-year rule of President Yahya Jammeh, which ended with him fleeing the nation in 2017.
The proceedings of the Fact, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRRC) have simply handed the two-year mark and the reside day by day broadcasts have gripped the nation.
Viewers have heard tales of utmost violence and torture, arbitrary arrests and homicide, and the affect of the president’s faux well being cures.
Some issues have been at all times suspected, and there was little doubt that individuals feared President Jammeh, however the extent of the crimes has come as a shock.
Listed below are 5 issues that we now have learnt up to now:
1) The president’s ‘five-star motels’ weren’t snug
Mr Jammeh was keen on joking that if anybody crossed him they’d find yourself in one among his “five-star motels” – his nickname for prisons.
Witnesses, each former inmates and guards, have advised the TRRC that if an alleged crime associated to the president, the torture of prisoners was assured.
One former head of the Nationwide Intelligence Company (NIA) admitted to the fee that following Mr Jammeh’s fall he tried to cowl up the violence by having builders renovate a jail to do away with the torture chamber and a lot of the tools.
Many former prisoners have advised the TRRC how they have been jailed on the flimsiest of proof.
One man admitted that he was a “witness for rent”, giving proof in a number of high-profile circumstances (together with alleged coup plots that led to individuals being executed) when he had no information of the occasions. In all, he mentioned he gave 32 paid-for statements towards 12 individuals.
2) Informants have been in all places
A number of witnesses have given proof about how they have been detained after somebody handed their title on.
Omar Jatta was a sufferer of the NIA’s “particular remedy”. He advised the fee that he was arrested in 1995, taken to the NIA, undressed and electrocuted.
He was detained as a result of he had been seen chatting with a veteran opposition politician at a naming ceremony.
I grew to become conscious of the worry of informants after attending a dinner-dance occasion in 1998. A comic did an ideal impression of President Jammeh, however I used to be the one viewers member out of 300 who was in stitches.
Everybody else simply stared on the flooring. Later, somebody defined: “You by no means know who’s watching.”
3) Jammeh’s paranoia led to homicide
A gaggle of troopers confessed to the seize and killing of over 50 African migrants, together with 44 Ghanaians who, in July 2005, made the error of making an attempt to journey by way of the nation on their approach to Europe.
They have been arrested by safety forces when their boat docked and with no proof and no trial they have been accused of being mercenaries employed for a attainable coup try.
Over the next 10 days, nearly all of these detained have been killed in The Gambia or taken throughout the border into Senegal and shot and their our bodies dumped in wells.
One soldier recounted how, simply earlier than he was shot, one of many migrants requested if he might attain into his pocket and retrieve one thing. It turned out to be a $100 invoice which he handed to the soldier saying: “I clearly will not be capable of spend this, you’ll be able to have it.”
The soldier admitted that he took it and spent.
The Ghanaian shoe vendor taking up an ex-dictator
4) Jammeh’s ‘HIV sufferers’ stripped bare
In one among his most outlandish claims, President Jammeh mentioned in 2007 that he had a remedy for HIV, bronchial asthma and diabetes.
He then took sufferers off typical antiretroviral remedies and enrolled them in his Presidential Various Remedy Programme.
One witness, who was HIV-positive, mentioned he needed to strip bare. He then had a lotion rubbed on to his physique and was given one thing to drink.
The sufferers who didn’t die are nonetheless HIV-positive and now present process typical remedy.
5) The presidential convoy was lethal
When the president was on the highway all visitors needed to give approach. To date, so regular however there have been critical penalties for many who failed to maneuver.
The TRRC has heard from a number of witnesses who have been left disabled after not getting out of the way in which of the presidential convoy quick sufficient. Others died.
Typically, troopers would break free from the stream of automobiles to beat up drivers or pedestrians who didn’t transfer in time.
Whereas the reality about a few of what occurred now could also be identified, it’s nonetheless not clear what room there may be for reconciliation”
Mr Jammeh’s former household waiter was one among many to touch upon his behavior of throwing biscuits to crowds because the convoy swept previous.
Folks scrambling to choose up the snacks would then get run over by different rushing vehicles within the entourage. The witness estimated that 20 have been killed on this approach between 2001 and 2008.
The tales which have come out from witnesses in addition to perpetrators have led Gambians to replicate on what they knew of the nation and themselves.
Earlier than the TRRC it was widespread to listen to individuals say that foreigners will need to have been behind any alleged atrocities. However not one self-confessed killer or torturer has proved to be from outdoors the nation.
Whereas the reality about a few of what occurred might now be identified, it’s nonetheless not clear what room there may be for reconciliation.
The fee has at the least one other six months to run and solely after its report is revealed will there be a last reckoning with The Gambia’s violent and troubled previous.
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- Yahya Jammeh