By Yankuba Jallow, Mustapha Jallow and Nelson Manneh
Hundreds of Gambians took to the street on Saturday demanding for the prosecution of ex-President Yahya Jammeh and the banning of APRC.
Jammeh was the founder of APRC and they have ruled the country for two decades. Jammeh, a former military Captain ruled the Gambia for 22 years after toppling the PPP government in July 1994.
The Jammeh to Justice March began at Westfield Junction to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) regional office for KMC – over a kilometre.
The campaigners for Jammeh’s arrest and prosecution had banners bearing several slogans including “Jammeh to Justice”, “Never Again”, “Only justice can prevail”, “Hear our cries” and “Only justice can heal our wound” among others.
The march pass brought together victims of the former regime, their families, civil society groups and politicians among others.
Former President Jammeh is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea following his loss to Adama Barrow in the polls in the 2016 Presidential elections. As a result of the alleged rights violations that his government is alleged to have committed, the Government of the Gambia established the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate and come up with an impartial historical record of the alleged human rights violations. Under his government, many people were said to have lost their lives and properties.
APRC, on the 16th January 2020 submitted their petition to ECOWAS demanding the implementation of what they supposed was an agreement between the UN, AU, ECOWAS and ex-President Jammeh for his return.
Mr. Sheriff M. Kijera, the Chairman Board of Director of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violation (GCVHRV) read a letter petitioning the Gambia Government to act on five things.
Kijera said they want the government to impose a ban or suspension on the APRC party until the ongoing TRRC process is concluded. Secondly, they want the government to condemn any threats towards victims, and take appropriate legal measures for remedy.
They want the Government to arrest and prosecute ex-President Yahya Jammeh whenever he steps foot in this country. Additionally, the victims want the government to consult them on issues that affect them before taking a decision.
They also want the government to immediately begin consultation with the regional and international bodies to bring Jammeh to justice.
Fatou Sowe, a widow of the late Sergeant Fafa Nyang (November 11) said, “I’m here to march to condemn the recent call for Jammeh to come home.’’
She added: “We come to show people that we (the victims and the victim families) want to see Yahya Jammeh face justice. If his party (APRC) wants, let them buy air-ticket for him to come home, but the day he lands in this country, we want to see that justice is served.’’
Madina Njie, a niece to late Lamin Marong said the government is not doing much in bringing Jammeh to justice.
“The government is not doing much. We won’t allow the demise of our loved ones to go in vain,” she said.
She said the issuance of the permit to the APRC to assemble and demand the return of Jammeh by the police was not correct because Jammeh has caused a lot of pain to several families in the country. She added that the APRC protest was another traumatization of the victims.
“Yahya Jammeh should face justice. We don’t want anything other than for him to be prosecuted,” she said.
Nyima Sonko, the wife of late Solo Sandeng said the government was using APRC as their campaign tool to canvass vote. She said Jammeh should be arrested and taken to court whenever he comes home or else the case of those who lost their lives in his regime will go in vain.
“The government said Yahya Jammeh is a citizen like us. This was an unfortunate statement from the President. Yahya Jammeh cannot have the same rights we have because he killed our husbands, sons and our relatives. He has to face justice,” she said.
She said Jammeh was a brutal leader and he must face justice. She said the APRC protest was uncalled for because it was an insult to them.
The daughter of late Haruna Jammeh said the police did not act properly when they issued APRC with a permit to protest for the return of Jammeh. Isatou Jammeh said her uncle, former President Jammeh’s return will jeopardise the TRRC process.
“Jammeh must face justice. We don’t know when, but surely he will face justice,” she said.
Isatou Jammeh commended the Minister of Justice for his statement that Jammeh will be arrested and prosecuted when he comes to the Gambia.
Madi Jobarteh said: “We want the government to address what has taken place in the past and that is the only way they can build the future,” he said.
Mr. Jobarteh said: “There are somethings that the current government is doing and should not be done. President Barrow went to a rally and told people that President Jammeh can come back to this country as a private citizen. He should not have said that.”
Mr. Jobarteh said the government did not take any step to bring Jammeh to face justice.
“The reason why APRC militants have the power to come out and protest is that we have a weak government and they don’t mind what has taken place in the past,” he said.
He said the demonstration is just a reminder to the government that the citizens were still not satisfied with what they have been doing.
Muhammed Sanding, the son of Late Solo Sanding said he joined the protesters to support the idea of bringing Jammeh back to the Gambia for him to face justice.
Mr. Sanding called on the government to take more proactive measures to ensure that Jammeh faces justice.
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe said former President Jammeh has the right to come back to the Gambia.
“This is what we want. We want Jammeh to be prosecuted in The Gambia or the international criminal court. This demonstration is showing that we are not in disagreement with those who said Jammeh should come. Let him come and face prosecution. There is no reason for Jammeh not to be prosecuted,” he said.
He said Jammeh should come home and face his own brutality.
Omar Amadou Jallow alias OJ said Jammeh’s regime was marred with gross violation of people’s right. He said he came out to show solidarity with the victims because he was a victim of Jammeh’s regime. He explained that he was abducted for several months and tortured by security personnel who damaged one of his eyes. He said despite the fact that he was tortured, he had forgiven his tormentors, but the APRC should not go out in the street glorifying Jammeh.
“Jammeh is a tormentor. APRC should ask forgiveness from Gambians. We won’t sit and allow them to glorify Jammeh,” he said.
Ebrima Sankareh, government spokesperson who received the victim’s petition on behalf of President Barrow said: “I’ve been one of strongest advocates calling for Jammeh’s day in court; there is no doubt about that.”
He added: “And nobody can deny that some very bad things happened in the country. I’ve had your call and the President has had you. I will present your petition to the President and this is what we are all working for – to have the Gambia, where one day all of us, divergent as our views may be, would come to converge and talk sense to each other.’’
He said: “Now, we have democracy, people are free to speak their minds without fear of intimidation, inducement or arrest.’’