BANJUL, Gambia — Lots of the Gambian residents who testified in recent times that their former president was chargeable for a variety of atrocities by no means thought they might sooner or later see him tried in a courtroom.
However 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 Reality, 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 stay into the nation’s dwelling rooms.
The witnesses included members of the previous president’s hit squad, often known as the junglers. However many extra of the witnesses had been residents who recounted being victimized, reminiscent of Toufah Jallow, who accused the previous president of raping her when she was 18, simply after she had received the nation’s prime 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 in some unspecified time in the future.”
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, introduced 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 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 observe its phrases with concrete motion.
“I believe Adama Barrow and his authorities understand they don’t have any selection 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 folks killed and lots of raped by Mr. Jammeh’s operatives, the vast majority 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, in keeping with 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, had been greeted as heroes.
However politics quickly took priority over justice. Final yr, 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 celebration, enjoys appreciable help in Gambia, significantly in his house 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 similar time looking for his political backing.
Mr. Barrow succeeded in successful the help 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 deliver perpetrators to account.
However, she stated, each step has been a battle, with the federal government failing to analyze what seemed 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. Generally, they ran into relations 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 lately the topic of a private assault 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 through the years.”
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 suggestion of the reality fee was not accepted: to bar from workplace the chief of the Nationwide Intelligence Company who, after Mr. Barrow turned 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 anyplace.”
“Hopefully different Gambians don’t should undergo what I’ve gone via,” she added.