By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Police, Crime and Forensic department have embarked on an extensive search for ‘Secret Graves’ in a South Western Town of Foni since 30th March 2017. The Forensic search team were lead to the graves by members of the former Junglers’, a hit squad of previous President and ruthless Dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Foni Kanilai is the hometown of recently exiled Dictator Yahya Jammeh, who is currently seeking refuge in Equatorial Guinea. The brutal dictator has been accused by Human Rights Organisations of gross Human Rights Violations resulting from his system of enforced disappearances, kidnappings and a penchant for denying his victims a decent burial.
According to West Africa Democracy Radio’s (WADR) correspondent, Lamin Cham, “Junglers have confessed to taking part in the killing and burial of the victims of the Jammeh regime.” He reported that three corpses have been unearthed. Although a conclusive forensic report is yet to be issued to confirm the identity of the bodies, they are alleged to be the remains of the December 2014 coup attackers, Lamin Sanneh, Njaga Jagne and Alhagie Nyass. In early 2015 the Gambia Government reported the killing of the coup attackers but none of the corpses were returned to their family members for a respectable burial.
According to numerous sources the bodies of the December 2014 coup attackers were held at the Edward Francis Small mortuary under heavy military guard and have been hurriedly buried at the forest during the post-election political impasse. On the condition of the bodies, Lamin Cham stated that “there are some parts of their bodies which are still intact but their skulls have been broken and muddied up with swamp mud. The sight is horrific and the stench is so powerfully foul.”
Two of the Junglers at the scene were present under heavily armed guard and it’s reported that the forest is heavily guarded. At one point the two Junglers were involved in a heated argument as they struggled to identify the location of the secret graves. One of them argued that the bodies were buried a fair distance away from the highway at night. Burying the bodies at night made identifying the location of the secret graves more difficult.
Commenting on the mood at the forest as family members observed the unearthing of their alleged family members; Absolutely devastated, the brother of Njaga Jagne was present and he was so devastated, somber and shocked at the scene. The investigations on additional ‘Secret Graves’ will be an ongoing process. Below is a review of two other allegations of mass graves in The Gambia by former President Dawda Jawara and Human Rights Groups.
Other Mass Graves
50 West Africans buried in Ghana Town – July 2005
According to a joint report published by Amnesty, Article 19 and RADDHO, on July 2005, fifty foreign nationals were killed in The Gambia by “rogue” Gambian security forces. It was alleged that some 44 Ghanaians were among the foreign nationals intercepted by Gambian security forces in Gambian waters. The soldiers suspected that the foreigners were planning to overthrow the government during Gambia’s Independence Day celebrations.
According to a Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report, the men were taken to the naval headquarters in Banjul, divided into groups of eight and taken to a field near Siffoe in Gambia’s Western Division. They were reportedly killed by members of the security forces with machetes, axes and other weapons. The bodies were then indiscriminately dumped at various locations, among them the village of Brufut, near Siffoe. Reliable NIA sources involved in the investigation of the presence of these Africans in Gambia reported that former CDS Ousman Badjie and Louis Gomez NIA Director of Internal Operations allegedly coordinated and supervised the mass execution. The NIA agent added that these West African nationals were part of a human smuggling ring and had paid for the trafficker who was resident in Banjul. The source added that “Jammeh ordered the CDS to take care of these rebels” which meant eliminating them.
Efforts to initiate an investigation into this incident have been mired in problems. In July 2007 the Ghanaian Foreign Affairs Legal Bureau identified the bodies of eight Ghanaian men. Preliminary investigations show they died from shock and trauma. In 2009, a report carried out jointly by ECOWAS and the UN determined that rogue security forces were responsible. It included the names of individual officers. So far, the Gambian government has paid a contribution towards the funeral expenses of the six Ghanaian bodies found on their territory. There has been no further investigation and none of the alleged perpetrators named in the report have been brought to justice.
Former President Jawara alleges “50 Soldiers in mass graves” – November 1994
According to the first head of State of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara not less than 50 soldiers have been killed and buried in mass graves following an alleged attempted coup on 11th November 1994. First President Jawara took The Gambia Government [lead by Yahyah Jammeh then] to the African Commission which ruled in favour of Jawara against The Gambia on a number of points but failed to act on Jawara’s severe warning of mass graves in The Gambia.
In his attempt to substantiate his allegations, Jawara attached the names of thirteen of the fifty soldiers alleged to have been killed. In his submission, he alleged that a former Finance Minister, Mr Koro Ceesay was also killed by the government. One of his leading pieces of evidence was a document from a former member of the AFPRC/APRC, Captain Sadibu Hydara. Had the African Commission decided to investigate the allegations of former President Jawara that could have stopped the unsavory legacy of mass graves in The Gambia? As the saying goes, foresight is always an afterthought. Now the #NewGambia will need to carefully unearth mass graves left behind by a brutal dictator who has left behind a pillaged economy and countless victims seeking for justice.