August 3, 2021

end of two years of damning testimony against former autocrat Yahya Jammeh

A Gambian commission tasked with shedding light on the crimes committed under Yahya Jammeh ended this weekend for two and a half years of often damning testimony, deemed crucial for possible prosecutions against the former president, in exile in Equatorial Guinea since 2017 .

The report of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), eagerly awaited by human rights organizations, will be “Submitted in July to the president” Adama Barrow, TRRC executive secretary Galleh Jallow told AFP.

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Mr Barrow has long signaled that he would wait for the recommendations of the Commission to possibly seek legal action against his predecessor, who for twenty-two years ruled a regular regime in this former British colony in West Africa. accused of torture, extrajudicial executions and rape.

The commissioners assured Thursday, May 27 that they were not “Against Jammeh” more “On the side of the truth”. The last witness was heard all day Thursday. “Five or six questions” remaining to be discussed, his hearing will resume Friday morning, said the committee.

Death squads

Since January 2019, thanks to hearings broadcast live on television, Gambians have been able to hear with dismay the accounts of more than 370 witnesses, men and women, former ministers, ordinary civilians or soldiers, victims and ex-members of the squadrons of the death of the regime, the Junglers (“Broussards”).

“You were one of the closest to Jammeh, he was calling you son and you called her dad», launched the chief commissioner, Essa Faal, to the last witness, Saikou Jallow, 42, questioned by videoconference.

Mr Jallow, a soldier who served as personal assistant to the former president, said in particular that, according to his information, Mr Jammeh was indeed responsible for the deaths of several of his relatives who had fallen from grace, including members of the his family, as other witnesses had already said.

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During exchanges at times very tense, however, he then refused to blame Yahya Jammeh for other killings, explaining that the former president had told him on several occasions that he had been killed. ” deceived “ by his men.

Coming to power in a bloodless coup in 1994, Yahya Jammeh was widely elected and re-elected without interruption until his defeat in December 2016 to Adama Barrow. After six weeks of a crisis with twists and turns caused by his refusal to cede power, he finally had to leave the country following a West African military intervention and a final Guinean-Mauritanian mediation.

Assassination of the oldest journalist

The Commission may recommend prosecution, but does not have the power to pass convictions. A former beauty queen, Fatou Jallow, during her hearing in November 2019 accused Mr Jammeh of raping her in order to humiliate her and take revenge for the rejection of her marriage proposal.

A soldier also recounted how, according to him by President Jammeh, he participated in the 2004 assassination of the one considered to be the oldest of Gambian journalists, Deyda Hydara, who was AFP’s Banjul correspondent and by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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A Ghanaian, Martin Kyere, told the story of the massacre of fifty West African migrants taken for mercenaries, a massacre of which he is the only survivor. Yahya Jammeh has always denied being involved in these assassinations.

Other witnesses detailed the extrajudicial executions committed by the Junglers, or the mystical practices of Yahya Jammeh consisting of making his « patients » beverages believed to cure AIDS and which were fatal to many of them.

Auditions “Highlighted the need to open a criminal investigation into Jammeh’s actions”Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Thursday. “How the Gambian government responds to the recommendations of the Commission should be a key question in the elections scheduled for December 2021”, added the NGO.

Mr Barrow has not yet made it clear whether he will run for a second term, but his candidacy is clear in The Gambia. Mr. Jammeh, for his part, can still count on supporters demanding his return.

The World with AFP