By Ousman A. Marong
The former Inspector General of Police (IGP) and current Minister of the Interior, Yankuba Sonko has confirmed to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that there was a massive government cover-up in the killings of the West African migrants in 2005.
Giving testimony before the TRRC on Tuesday, Sonko said the former regime lied to the international community regarding the deaths of the migrants. He however denied his own involvement in the cover-up.
Mr. Sonko said he read the killings of eight Ghanaian migrants in the Gambia in the public domain. He however admitted that human rights violations took place under his watch as IGP which he said was why he created a human rights violation office where complains were made. He said his responsibility into the investigation of the migrants killings was to provide documents for the UN investigators which he did.
Prior to his testimony, Lead Counsel Essa Faal told Sonko that he appeared before the commission not because he was adversely mentioned in human rights violations. However, he informed him that it was important for the Commission to hear his testimony on certain issues.
According to Sonko, his dismissal as IGP was in connection to his re-instatement of certain police officers who were dismissed by former President Yahya Jammeh. He said he was later given a re-instatement letter when he reported to State House.
Sonko stated that he ordered for the arrest of the Junglers following the departure of former President Jammeh through the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS).
He added that the hit men (Junglers) were answerable to General Sulayman (Saul) Badjie and former President Yahya Jammeh and that they were also involved in drug peddling.
It could be recalled that more than 50 Ghanaian and other West African migrants were massacred in the Gambia in 2005. The West African migrants, who were bound for Europe, were apprehended and extra-judicially executed after the boat they had boarded in Senegal dropped them in the Gambia.
The United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a joint team to the Gambia in order to investigate the killing of the migrants, which produced a report in April 2009 but never made it public.
The Bulletin of the UN Department of Public Affairs reported in 2009 that the unreleased report concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the killings and forced disappearances but that “rogue elements” in the Gambian security services, “acting on their own,” were responsible.
However, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International published a report in May 2018, based on interviews with former Jammeh-era security officials directly involved in the incident that found that the migrants were detained by Jammeh’s closest associates in the army, the navy, and the police, and then summarily executed by the so-called Junglers, a paramilitary unit operating under Jammeh’s orders. The Gambian government was also accused of destroying key evidence before the UN/ECOWAS team arrived.
Jammeh’s 22-year rule in Gambia was marked by widespread human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention.