Gambia Says It Will Prosecute Former President for Murder

BANJUL, Gambia — Many of the Gambian residents who testified in recent times that their former president was accountable for a variety of atrocities by no means thought they’d at some point see him tried in a courtroom.

But that prospect turned extra actual on Wednesday, after the present authorities stated it plans to prosecute Yahya Jammeh, who for 22 years dominated over and sometimes terrorized the residents of his small nation on the coast of West Africa.

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, created to uncover human rights violations, from 2018 to 2021 streamed the testimonies of victims and the confessions of alleged perpetrators dwell into the nation’s residing rooms.

The witnesses included members of the previous president’s hit squad, generally known as the junglers. But many extra of the witnesses have been residents who recounted being victimized, equivalent to Toufah Jallow, who accused the previous president of raping her when she was 18, simply after she had gained the nation’s high expertise present.

“It’s a huge relief off my shoulders,” Ms. Jallow stated of the federal government’s resolution in an interview on Wednesday. “We lost hope at some point.”

But of lastly reaching this level, she stated: “It’s very empowering for a lot of victims.”

In a televised deal with, Dawda Jallow, the minister of justice, offered the federal government’s response to the reality fee, accepting its suggestions, which included the prosecution of the previous president.

“President Jammeh will face justice for the atrocities that he committed in this country,” Mr. Jallow stated.

But whereas some victims and civil society leaders welcomed it as an enormous step, others expressed doubts that the federal government would observe its phrases with concrete motion.

“I think Adama Barrow and his government realize they have no choice but to accept these recommendations,” stated Nana-Jo Ndow, founding father of the African Network towards Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances. But, she added, “whether they prosecute or not is another question.”

The fact fee documented 122 instances of torture, greater than 230 folks killed and lots of raped by Mr. Jammeh’s operatives, nearly all of them on the previous president’s orders. Mr. Jammeh jailed his critics, branded residents as witches and compelled folks with AIDS to swap their medicines for bogus natural remedies that he had invented, based on human rights advocates.

After dropping an election and attempting to cling to energy, Mr. Jammeh lastly went into exile in 2017. A brand new coalition authorities and its new president, a former actual property agent named Adama Barrow, have been greeted as heroes.

But politics quickly took priority over justice. Last year, with one other election approaching, President Barrow turned for help to his predecessor, Mr. Jammeh. Mr. Jammeh resides in exile in Equatorial Guinea, however nonetheless, regardless of a break up in his get together, enjoys appreciable help in Gambia, notably in his dwelling area of Foni, the place in final year’s election his faction gained all 5 parliamentary seats.

Some victims stated Mr. Barrow couldn’t be severe about prosecuting Mr. Jammeh whereas on the identical time in search of his political backing.

Mr. Barrow succeeded in successful the help of a part of Mr. Jammeh’s former get together, and it was sufficient to return Mr. Barrow to energy. But Mr. Jammeh himself refused to endorse Mr. Barrow — at one level even calling him a “donkey.” By spurning Mr. Barrow, Mr. Jammeh made it politically possible for the present president to pursue the prosecution of his predecessor, analysts stated.

“What actually saved us right now,” stated Ms. Ndow, “is Yahya Jammeh’s madness. His madness actually came in handy this time, because he shot himself in the foot.”

Ms. Ndow’s father was forcibly disappeared below Mr. Jammeh’s direct orders and is presumed to have been killed. Together with many different victims, she turned a personal tragedy right into a dogged marketing campaign to carry perpetrators to account.

But, she stated, each step has been a struggle, with the federal government failing to research what seemed to be clear instances of abuse, and permitting confessed murderers to proceed their employment within the armed forces and releasing them from custody into close-knit Gambian society. Sometimes, they ran into relations of their victims.

And even after the Barrow-Jammeh alliance didn’t materialize, Mr. Barrow appointed two of his predecessor’s highest-ranking officers as speaker and deputy speaker of Gambia’s House of Assembly.

Madi Jobarteh, a Gambian human rights activist who was recently the subject of a personal attack by President Barrow, stated that the federal government’s response on Wednesday, coincidentally Mr. Jammeh’s 57th birthday, was encouraging total.

“It appears the government has now mustered courage,” and begun addressing justice points, he stated, after a “disappointing start over the years.”

And Fatou Baldeh, who wrote a report documenting sexual violence through the Jammeh period, stated that the official assertion “lays the foundation for justice and reparations.”

But the federal government has not detailed the way it will undertake any prosecutions, or on what timeline.

Several senior figures in Mr. Jammeh’s authorities utilized for amnesty and have been denied it. One suggestion of the reality fee was not accepted: to bar from office the chief of the National Intelligence Agency who, after Mr. Barrow turned president, had renovated the cells the place torture victims have been held, destroying important proof like graffiti and bloodstains. He stays in his position.

For Ms. Ndow, it was clear that although the battle had been lengthy, it must proceed.

“It took five years of barking, but clearly you’re listening,” she stated, referring to the federal government. “And we’re not going anywhere.”

“Hopefully other Gambians don’t have to go through what I’ve gone through,” she added.

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