During 2009 Witch-hunt Operations
By Mustapha Jallow
In their final report and recommendations which they submitted to President Adama Barrow, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has recommended the prosecution of Gambia’s former ruler Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, together with his former close aides in the persons of Lt. Colonel Solo Bojang and Captain Saikou Jallow, for the murder and manslaughter of forty one individuals during the 2009 witch-hunt operations.
According to the Truth Commission Report, the witch-hunt exercise which was initiated by the former president, constitutes a team of police and military heads, and members of the spy agency (NIA), together with the APRC militia group known as the ‘green’ boys/girls, who assisted the witch-hunters in carrying out their operations.
The report said Lt. Col. Solo Bojang was the then deputy Commander of Jammeh’s hit squad called ‘Junglers’ whilst Cap. Jallow was a former orderly to Jammeh, alleging both as his close aide.
“Former president Yahya Jammeh, Solo Bojang and Saikou Jallow, should face prosecution for the murder and manslaughter of forty one (41) individuals (18 in Jamburr; 13 in Sintet; 2 in Makumbuya, and 8 in Essau), who died as a result of being targeted and forced to drink toxic concoctions which resulted in their deaths,” the long-awaited report of the Truth Commission indicated.
The Commission further recommends the prosecution of Yahya Jammeh, Lt. Col. Solo Bojang, ex-IGP and now Police Commissioner of URR, Ensa Badjie, the co-leader of the witch-hunters, Tambajiro, Cap. Saikou Jallow and Police O. C. Omar Jawo, for the inhumane and degrading treatment and torture inflicted on the victims during the witch hunting exercise.
The Truth Commission recommended the referral of Tamsir Bah to the Gambia Police Force high command for disciplinary measures for his role in the unlawful arrest and detention of Nyima Jarju, her baby and mother-in-law Fatou Bojang in 2009, during the Sintet witch hunting exercise; adding that consideration should be given to passing legislation, to criminalise the labeling of individuals as witches as a result of societal stigma attached.
It further recommends the training of security personnel to know and appreciate the negative impacts of witchcraft in society and how damaging it is to accuse persons.
‘‘The National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MOBSE) and Civil Society Organizations engage in advocacy and awareness programmes, should sensitize the public and local communities to change the mindset and attitudes regarding the stigma attached to witch craft, so as to remove the negative impacts against persons accused of being witches and wizards,” the TRRC report said; stressing that guidelines should be provided to prevent security forces from being used to carry out unlawful orders.
Meanwhile, the Truth Commission report highlighted how Jammeh was able to launch a nationwide witch hunting exercise in 2009. The TRRC report said witch-doctors were escorted and assisted by members of the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF), members of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), the paramilitary wing of the Police, conventional police officers in villages and the ‘Green’ boys and girls.
“The witch-hunters entered into villages and after rounding up those persons identified as witches and wizards, they took them away to a secure location and forced them to participate in ritual cleansing activities involving the drinking and bathing in, of herbal concoctions,” the TRRC report indicated.
According to the Truth Commission, the witch-hunt operators travelled from village to village and had the backing of the state and its security apparatus; indicating that this was substantiated by the fact that the victims were transported in state vehicles.
“The witch hunters wielded considerable power and authority in the different locations they visited, and this was demonstrated by how they commanded control and compelled the compliance of local Government authorities, security forces, villagers and victims,” the report added; alleging that all orders and directives were given by the now exiled ex-president Jammeh.