gambia
gambia

The survivors of the April 2000 student massacre in The Gambia by the police say they have yet to be healed as justice has not been served for the tragic event that left them disabled and 14 others killed.

It is exactly 18 years today when the Gambia Student Union (GAMSU), furious over government’s delay in investigation and action, resorted to staging a nationwide demonstration to demand justice for two of their colleagues — a female student who had reportedly been raped while a boy beaten by the Gambian fire fighters, leading to his death.

The students burnt tyres on the main highways of the country. The Gambian police officers responded by firing live bullets at students, killing fourteen in different part of the country, leaving several young men and women permanently disabled.

“I was shot on the left knee. The bullet entered and went out my knee cap. I was admitted at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital (RVTH) in Banjul for four months,” Abdoukarim Jammeh, a 39-year-old told Xinhua.

He added that he was still feeling the pain every day, “especially when I sit for a long time I use to feel the pain. I am limping and I am using a walking stick to support myself.”

Jammeh said the government of former president, Yahya Jammeh, ignored them in terms of treatment and accessing justice.

“Fourteen victims are in their graves, leaving their parents, family members, school mates, teachers and friends with bitter memories in their minds and sores in their hearts which need healing,” Jammeh said.

He added that countless number of victims who were subjected to torture are still unknown while dozens more like him are on wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility aids because of injuries sustained from the bullets.

He said they will use this year’s anniversary to remind the new authorities that they are still suffering in silence.

“We are waiting to be healed,” he said.

He expressed disappointment in the slow move of the new government in fulfilling their promises to the victims.

However, he said, they have an offer from Turkish embassy in Banjul for overseas treatment and their medical papers are at the Ministry of Health in order to update them.

Another victim, Yusupha Mbye, now wheel-chaired due to shooting, recalled that the incident met him when he was attending classes at Pipeline Comprehensive Senior Secondary School in Kanifing.

“We were at the school and they (police officers) came and took us out by force. On my way home, when I reached the Post Office trying to cross to the other end of the road the bullet shot me on my back, just near my backbone,” he recalled.

“I was then hospitalized at RVTH for a month. They (the former government) evacuated me to Egypt for overseas treatment. I spent three months in Egypt,” he said.

Mbye said the final month for his treatment was not paid by the doctor who was treating him before he was evacuated to The Gambia.

“Eventually, I could not walk again and all my medical treatment certificates were seized. I didn’t complete my school. I stopped at grade ten. I am not doing anything because I cannot do anything for myself,” he said.

Jarra Sumareh, 37, said she was tortured and inhumanely treated by the armed police officers after she was caught on her way to school.

“I was beaten, thrown at the back of the pickup truck and taken to the Kanifing Mobile Police Station. I was later released and I went home,” she said.

“For me I was shocked, then I forgot my pain because they shot my younger brother. I got a call in the evening that my brother was shot and admitted at the hospital in Banjul,” she added.

She decided to ignore her pains because she pitied her mother whose two children were victimized.

“I was beaten while the other one was shot to almost death. So it is too much for my mother so I ended up hiding my own pain,” She said. “They didn’t realize until I fell sick later on.”

She added that her younger brother, who is still in treatment in America, went through a major operation resulting in the removal of one of his kidneys, the liver and the bladder.

Like others, Sumareh said she hasn’t heard much from the new government regarding their status.

“All what I heard is that they formed the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission. That is the only thing I heard and that is the only thing we are hoping on. If they will work out positively for us I don’t know because it has been a long time,” she said.

The conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry that was set up at the time was only recently released after over 17 years. It confirms that it was the security forces that shot the students.

The coroner’s inquest further confirmed that the cause of their deaths were gunshots. At last year’s commemoration, victims presented 11-point demands to the Gambian government regarding their plight, including in-depth investigations as to who ordered the security forces to fire bullets.

The current minister of Justice Aboubacarr Tambadou was among the lawyers representing the students in the year 2000 at the Commission of Inquiry.

“The main question we kept on asking was who ordered the firing of the bullets. We never got an answer to this question,” Tambadou told victims at last year’s commemoration. Enditem

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