The fight to bring Jammeh to justice

The Gambia, a west African country, is completely surrounded by Senegal and is the smallest country in mainland Africa. It was once a colony of Great Britain and since independence in 1965 has had long periods of peace.

In 1994, Yahya Jammeh was elected to power and his reign saw a great change in the country including declaring The Gambia an Islamic Republic. Jammeh has also claimed that he could cure AIDS, high blood pressure, and asthma with herbs. While he lied when he said that “the first Atlantic flight and the first flight from Eastern Europe landed in Gambia.”

During his regime, he re-introduced the death penalty for anyone who was found guilty of treason. Journalists were assassinated while students and migrants were killed and many more disappeared.

Replaced as president in 2016, throwbacks to his brutal regime are still being found and talked about. In early May, a burial ground was discovered. According to interviews with former Gambian officials, this burial ground is for migrants who were suspected of being mercenaries’ intent on overthrowing Jammeh.

In a recent interview one survivor of an execution tells his story. Martin Kyere, a Ghanian man and his accomplices were travelling to Senegal from Ghana, hoping to then move onto France. Their ship ran out of fuel and they docked in The Gambia. On arrival, they were detained by police and eventually handed over to paramilitaries working on behalf of the president.

“We were in the back of a pickup truck,” he said. “One man complained that the wires binding us were too tight and a soldier with a cutlass sliced him on the shoulder, cutting his arm, which bled profusely. It was then that I thought, ‘We’re going to die.’ But as the truck went deeper into the forest, I was able to get my hands free. I jumped out from the pickup and started to run into the forest. The soldiers shot toward me but I was able to hide. I then heard shots from the pickup and the cry, in Twi [Ghanaian language], ‘God save us!’”

Hiding in the jungle for days, he was eventually able to find his way out to a small village where locals helped him locate the border to Senegal. Mr. Kyere is now a key witness in trying to bring international human rights charges against ex-president Jammeh, who is now in exile in Equatorial Guinea.