BANJUL, Gambia — Most of the Gambian residents who testified lately that their former president was liable for a variety of atrocities by no means thought they might sooner or later see him tried in a courtroom.
However that prospect grew to become 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 Fact, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee, 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 dwelling rooms.
The witnesses included members of the former president’s hit squad, generally known as the junglers. However many extra of the witnesses had been residents who recounted being victimized, similar to Toufah Jallow, who accused the former president of raping her when she was 18, simply after she had received the nation’s high expertise present.
“It’s an enormous reduction off my shoulders,” Ms. Jallow stated in an interview of the federal government’s choice on Wednesday. “We misplaced hope sooner or later.”
However of lastly reaching this level, she stated: “It’s very empowering for lots of victims.”
In a televised tackle, Dawda Jallow, the minister of justice, offered the federal government’s response to the reality fee, accepting its recommendations, which included the prosecution of the previous president.
“President Jammeh will face justice for the atrocities that he dedicated on this nation,” Mr. Jallow stated.
However whereas some victims and civil society leaders welcomed it as an enormous step, others expressed doubts that the federal government would comply with its phrases with concrete motion.
“I feel Adama Barrow and his authorities understand they haven’t any alternative however to just accept these suggestions,” stated Nana-Jo Ndow, founding father of the African Community towards Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances. However, she added, “whether or not they prosecute or not is one other query.”
The reality fee documented 122 circumstances of torture, greater than 230 individuals killed and plenty of raped by Mr. Jammeh’s operatives, nearly all of them on the previous president’s orders. Mr. Jammeh jailed his critics, branded citizens as witches and compelled individuals with AIDS to swap their drugs for bogus natural remedies that he had invented, in accordance with human rights advocates.
After shedding an election and making an attempt 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, had been greeted as heroes.
However politics quickly took priority over justice. Final yr, with one other election approaching, President Barrow turned for assist to his predecessor, Mr. Jammeh. Mr. Jammeh resides in exile in Equatorial Guinea, however nonetheless, regardless of a break up in his celebration, enjoys appreciable assist in Gambia, significantly in his dwelling area of Foni, the place in final yr’s election his faction received all 5 parliamentary seats.
Some victims stated Mr. Barrow couldn’t be severe about prosecuting Mr. Jammeh whereas on the identical time looking for his political backing.
Mr. Barrow succeeded in profitable the assist of a part of Mr. Jammeh’s former celebration, and it was sufficient to return Mr. Barrow to energy. However 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 really saved us proper now,” stated Ms. Ndow, “is Yahya Jammeh’s insanity. His insanity really got here in useful this time, as a result of he shot himself within the foot.”
Ms. Ndow’s father was forcibly disappeared beneath Mr. Jammeh’s direct orders and is presumed to have been killed. Along with many different victims, she turned a private tragedy right into a dogged marketing campaign to carry perpetrators to account.
However, she stated, each step has been a battle, with the federal government failing to analyze what gave the impression to be clear circumstances of abuse, and permitting confessed murderers to proceed their employment within the armed forces and releasing them from custody into close-knit Gambian society. Typically, they ran into kinfolk of their victims.
And even after the Barrow-Jammeh alliance did not materialize, Mr. Barrow appointed two of his predecessor’s highest-ranking officers as speaker and deputy speaker of Gambia’s Home of Meeting.
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 general.
“It seems the federal government has now mustered braveness,” and begun addressing justice points, he stated, after a “disappointing begin over time.”
And Fatou Baldeh, who wrote a report documenting sexual violence throughout the Jammeh period, stated that the official assertion “lays the inspiration for justice and reparations.”
However the authorities has not detailed the way it will undertake any prosecutions, or on what timeline.
A number of senior figures in Mr. Jammeh’s authorities utilized for amnesty and had been denied it. One advice of the reality fee was not accepted: to bar from workplace the chief of the Nationwide Intelligence Company who, after Mr. Barrow grew to become president, had renovated the cells the place torture victims had been held, destroying important proof like graffiti and bloodstains. He stays in his place.
For Ms. Ndow, it was clear that although the battle had been lengthy, it must proceed.
“It took 5 years of barking, however clearly you’re listening,” she stated, referring to the federal government. “And we’re not going wherever.”
“Hopefully different Gambians don’t need to undergo what I’ve gone by way of,” she added.