By Edrissa Jallow reporting from Dakar, Senegal
A victim of the former President of Chad, one Mr Clement Abaifouta has urged victims of former President Yahya Jammeh not to lose hope and to pursue the implementation of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission’s (TRRC) Recommendations.
Mr Abaifouta was a victim of Chad’s former President, Hissène Habré. According to his narration, he was arrested on Friday 12th July 1985 and imprisoned for over four years with hard labour by the Government while he was on his way to pursue his educational career in Germany.
“I will be happy sitting with victims of The Gambia and [to] have a discussion with them but do not invite politicians’ or politics into our discussion because as victims we believe we can succeed. You [Jammeh Victims] should not despair,” Mr Abaifouta told our reporter in Dakar.
When asked to proffer reasons (s) why he wants Politicians to be exempt from his engagement with Gambian victims he explained that Politicians can’t be trusted with their promises.
In his view, the main aim of meeting Jammeh’s victims is “to console them and fight with them for justice as they are also my colleagues’ victims and I know how it feels”. However, he believes that because politicians “can promise anything and in the evening they change their mind,” they should be exempted from such discussions.
Trial International notes that Hissène Habré “ruled Chad from 1982 until his ouster by the current President Idriss Déby in December 1990, following which he fled to Senegal”. Trial International adds that “during the whole period between 1983 and 1990, many individuals were detained in secret detention centres, where they were tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. Many died in detention”.
Leading International Human Rights Organisation, Human Rights Watch details how Mr Abaifouta and other victims travelled to Dakar where they narrated their traumatic ordeal during the trial of former Chad President Hissène Habré.
“We Have Not Received Any Monetary Compensation Yet”
One Senegalese victim, Mr Abdourahmane Gueye narrates how he was thrown in a cell for months after his wealth was seized by the Hissène Habré regime. According to him, he was “unlawfully” arrested at Chad’s International Airport and detained for more than a year.
Mr Gueye narrated how his nightmare started with his arrest in 1987 with another Senegalese gentleman who died after four months in “a tiny” prison for carrying a lot of wealth including Gold and Diamond belonging to him. Mr Gueye told our reporter that over FCFA 30 Million Franc CFA was seized by the Hissène Habré regime.
After many years Habré was finally convicted and sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of committing numerous crimes including torture, and sexual violence by the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegalese court system. Habré was finally convicted on Monday 30th May 2016 according to Human Rights Watch.
Habré eventually died in late August 2021 while serving his life sentence at the age of 79. He only served less than 5 years of his life sentence.
In addition to the life sentence, Human Rights Watch’s publication revealed that on Thursday 27th April 2017, an “appeals court confirmed the verdict and ordered Habré to pay approximately €123 million euros in victim compensation”.
Speaking on the issue of compensation Mr Gueye explains that since the verdict “we have not received any compensation still, but I heard there is an ongoing payment” of TRRC Victims in The Gambia. He seized the opportunity to console Jammeh’s victims present at the event.
The interviews took place on the sidelines of a two-day conference organised by the African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED). The conference focuses on human rights violations and brought together victims from Chad and The Gambia as well as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the Gambia’s Ministry of Justice and experts in the Universal Jurisdiction in Dakar, Senegal.
The main focus of the two-day conference is to share lessons learnt from Chad victims and lawyers in their struggle to secure the conviction of former Chad Dictator Hissène Habré.