Gambian Students demonstrating on April 10, 2000
By Papa Kumba Loum
April 10 and 11 2000 massacre and maiming by Jammeh of Gambian students who were demonstrating against the alleged torture and killing of a fellow student by fire brigade officers at Brikama Fire Station and the rape of a student by men in military mufti at the Bakau Independence Stadium are just one of the many incidences of the unchecked brutality that Jammeh has meted out to Gambians during his 20 year rule.
While it will be fair to mention the efforts of a group of spirited lawyers and human right activists under the banner of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – the likes of Muhamed Lamin Sillah, Fatou Jagne –Senghore, Abubacar Tambadou, Ousman Manjang, Emmanuel Joof, Mariam Denton, Awa Sisay-Sabally, Ousman Sillah and others who sought redress in the courts and successfully obtained the release of scores of students arrested, detained and tortured during the aftermath of the shootings little else was achieved in terms of bringing to book those responsible and in obtaining compensation for the victims and their families.
Although the coalition of human rights defenders subsequently did hold press conferences condemning the government’s actions, requesting for the setting up of a commission of enquiry, demanded that the perpetrators to be tried, visited the injured at the RVTH and requested families of those killed to seek redress in the courts with the Coalition offering to provide free legal services, the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Pap Cheyasin Secka defended the governments action and the Vice President Aja Isatou Njie Saidy went as far as misinforming the public that among the student demonstrators were armed men who first fired at the security personnel and the likes of lawyer Joseph Joof was heard openly stating that if the students were not disciplined at home then they will be disciplined by the security personnel. No sooner after this despicable statement by lawyer Joseph Joof was he offered the post of Attorney General & Minister of Justice. The only elder statesman who publicly condemned the action of the government on Radion1 FM was the late Pa Docosta. May his soul rest in peace.
The families of the victims unfortunately were cowed by the regime into inaction and like true Gambians, they kept quiet and presumably are still waiting for divine intervention. Of course this is the typical behavior of Gambians which Yahya Jammeh has capitalized on and also set the stage for his unbridled and unchecked brutality he subsequently dished out to the greater public and which he is still meting out to Gambians.
April 10 & 11 2000 was the catalyst for Jammeh’s brutality with impunity on Gambians. He had tested the waters and was sure that Gambians were a bunch of selfish cowards who hide behind to cloak of Islam and Christianity without any regard for the teachings of Allah and or the fear of Allah. Soon after his successful gunning down of the students without any ramification, Jammeh started with the assassination attempt on the life of Lawyer Ousman Sillah, the assassination of Deyda Hydara, the killing of Chief Ebrima Manneh and many others, the burning of media houses, the unlawful detention and torture of many, the plundering of the economy, his phony HIV/AIDS treatments, his witch hunting exercises, self acquirement of titles such as Sheikh, Professor and Nasurudin and his near crowning of himself as king, his usurpation of the judiciary and appointment of mainly Nigerian mercenary judges, his detention and torture of Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana and Imam Baba Leigh, the public abuse and humiliation of many Gambian- the list goes on.
Why then should Jammeh change his ways? After all there is no incentive for him to change. He is Lord and King of Gambians. He controls the economy, the legislature and the Judiciary and he decides who should go to jail. He has his Army Chief in Jail, so is his former Chief Justice, Secretary General & Head of the Civil Service, Attorney General & Minister of Justice, Solicitor General, Inspector General-the lsit goes on. The Muslim Elders are under his thumb so are the chiefs and alkalos. Yahya Jammeh owns the Gambia pure and simple. Love him or hate him but it will be a fair assertion to say that in todays Gambia, he is the only one who has been man enough to dare all Gambians be it at the economic, political, military and religious level and he appears to be winning. Why should he not continue to behave the way he knows best i.e. brutalize Gambians?
Picture – courtesy of Gainako News.