By Gibril Saine
As the clouds hobble up together above Monday evening, Amnesty International, the worlds leading human rights organisation, premiers a short documentary on the Gambia in the city of London. The film highlights painful struggles and sacrifices ordinary Gambians in the country had gone through in a desperate effort to get rid of former president, Yahya Jammeh.
Arranged on the theme, ”We Never Gave Up: Stories of courage in The Gambia”, the showcase brought to life hurtful stories and reminders ordinary Gambians from all respects endured at the hands of a crime-ridden APRC regime. The event was chaired by Amnesty International’s deputy director of global research, Makmid Kamara, with the panel sitting lead researcher for West Africa, Sabrina Mahtani, Gambian youth activist, Yusef Taylor and Louise Hunt, a freelance journalist.
The audience was subjected to increasing horror and harrowing narrations from victims, lawyers, activists & good Samaritans who stock up to help one another against a tyrant. Suddenly, it was in stark camera film one victim after another relaying scenes of untold duress, imprisonment and torture suffered at the hands of Yahya Jammeh’s trigger-happy generals. Evidently, the APRC was a government of bandit thugs, axe murderers & daylight robbers with the nation’s treasury at its disposal. High crimes were committed against helpless, innocent lives oblivious to the due process, nor that of international human rights laws which The Gambia is a signatory.
Stories from The Gambia – is a tense and heart-wrenching watch, especially the account of Fatoumata Sandeng, daughter of the late Solo Sandeng, talking about the father she had and lost, for the reason that of a totalitarian leader perceived beyond reproach or criticism, and that every mistake is someone else’s fault who had to be locked away, even disappeared.
The Gambian High Commissioner in the UK, honorable Francis Blaine, thanked Amnesty International for a well-thought-out project, acknowledging the presence of PPP leader, OJ and the Member of Parliament for Banjul South, honorable Touma Njie. The Gambia’s top diplomat spoke at length on the unacceptable loss of life under the ‘Jammeh’ regime for one frivolous reason or the other. Gambians were fed up with him, he said, going on to relay events as sad as the ‘political impasse’ came to be dragging the Gambia into a near-military conflict. Under the able & dynamic leadership of president Adama Barrow, democracy has been restored, he continued, going on to assure the audience on his government’s resolve seeing to it that legacy crimes are investigated and put right, tackle poverty and such measures to attain sustainable development goals.
On film, Salieu Taal spoke on the birth of grassroots hashtag campaign #GambiaHasDecided during those difficult days as uncertainty mounts amidst the impasse. The T-Shirts and billboards lit up social media resonating well with the public, attracting much global interest in the process.
For his part, the former minister for agriculture, OJ Jallow, spoke powerfully to denounce the unlawful arrests & torture during the former regime, and of his own arbitrary detentions in that time. Harrowing stuff really referencing the beatings he was subjected to resulting in major damage to his eye. Truly honored and a privilege standing next to courage and sacrifice OJ Jallow is to this day. He spoke eloquently on the role of leadership so as to create a more equitable society. ‘Politics for me isn’t about amassing wealth, he said, but fairness where every child irrespective of economic background should have the same opportunities towards better livelihoods. The PPP leader also went on to preach fairness, justice, and merit-based political/economic system if the Gambia is to realise it developmental dreams; further warning the public against sycophancy so as not to create another dictator in our midst. The Member of Parliament for Banjul South, honorable Touma Njai, acknowledged his party leader’s comments & the challenges therein; and that parliament is resolved to hold government accountable on its responsibilities & duties to the Gambian people.
All in all, the event came to be a fruitful one showcasing the strength of collaboration and unity when people come together to create change. And as Jammeh, Saul Badjie and several of his sidekicks continue held up in Equatorial Guinea denied entry into beautiful Gambia, one can only hope twenty-two (22) years of APRC misrule will serve a painful reminder to current & future presidents, the security apparatus and every portfolio holder in government or private, that perpetrators must account for crimes committed no matter how long it takes – for no government is permanent #NeverAgain.