Families of victims of enforced disappearance under the 22-year regime of Yahya Jammeh have yesterday swore that they will not relent in their quest for justice until the ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh pays for the crimes committed against them.
The group, estimated three dozen, gathered at the Arch of Banjul to march to the Supreme Court, where they were scheduled to light 83 candles in honour of their confirmed 83 disappeared family members. However, the anti-riot unit of the police was dispatched to disperse the crowd.
“We will never forgive Jammeh for these crimes,” said Fatou Manneh, the sister of ex-Lt. Almamo Manneh of The Gambia Armed Forced, who was gunned down unarmed at the sting corner over ten years ago.
“How can the government ask us to forgive when we did not know how our loved ones died or how they got buried. This is unforgivable,” she said in a shaky voice, standing in a middle of the crowd at the entrance of the High Court Complex, speaking through a megaphone in hand and tears rolling down her cheeks.
They held placards with messages like, “Feel Our pain”, “Hear Our Cries”, “Only Justice Can Heal Wounds”, and “Where are they?”; chanted, “We need Justice Now1”. Delivering their statement in English in front of the Supreme Court in Banjul, Ms. Zainab Lowe emphasised that the victims needed answers, which was why they gathered at the justice building of the country.
“More than a year ago, the Ministry of the Interior exhumed several remains of Gambians who lost their lives in standing up to end the Jammeh regime. To date, families and friends of these victims have no information about the whereabouts or fate of the deceased,” Ms. Lowe said.
“The families and friends of the disappeared have an inalienable human right to mourn the loss of their loved ones and to bury them with dignity. The Gambia Victim Center, with the families of the forcibly disappeared, has petitioned the Ministry of the Interior tirelessly for the truth without success,” Zainab added.
She went on: “The time for waiting is over: The truth must be told and the remains returned. And this must happen now.”
Police nearly disrupted
The 83 candles that the victims were to light at the Supreme Court could not proceed due to limitations imposed by the police. Fifteen minutes after their arrival at the arch, officers in charge of the anti-riot unit of the police were engaged in discussion with the event organisers. Their orders: to disperse the crowd for lack of a permit to hold the procession.
It was thanks to the intervention of Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, executive secretary of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) and Mr. Thomas, special advisor to the minster of Justice that the crowd was allowed to proceed with the procession.
“What we discussed was that dispersing this crowd of victims is neither in the national interest, nor the good image of the police. They understood eventually…,” Dr Jallow said after the procession was over.
The whole event took almost 50 minutes, from the start of the march to the deliverance of statements and media interviews in front of the court house.