By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Survivors of the 2000 student bloodshed in The Gambia are still demanding justice and compensation. The horrible incident is now19 years ago this week, and activists are calling on the government to repeal the Indemnity Act so as to prosecute the culprits.
During this incident, 14 Gambian students including a Red Cross volunteer were gunned to down by security forces. Scores of survivors of this massacre continue to live with pain, poverty and deprivation without any support from successive the Gambia Governments.
Abdoukarim Jammeh, a survivor of the incident who was shot during the protest recounted the tragedy that changed his life.
“My schooling was interrupted, and my health too was affected. We have been seeking for justice for 19 years now, since this incident and this is very unfair,” he decried, in an interview with The Stone Circle.
Jammeh said their only crime was exercising their fundamental right.
“We are demanding for justice, we are demanding for the truth, we want the government to compensate us,” he added, saying many of the survivors are in need of urgent medical treatment as they live in desperation.
Another victim, Sainey Senghore remembers some of his friends who lost their lives. Sainey, who is now paralyzed and uses a wheelchair, said the survivors are committed to finding the justice they have been seeking for 19 years now.
“We will not relent until justice is done. We will channel the pain we face every single day. Look at us, we are the human face that embodied the callous act that led to the loss of our lives,” he said, during this year’s April 10/11 anniversary.
The Gambia Government under Yaha Jammeh passed an Indemnity Act to divest the Government and any of its agents of any liability for their decisions and actions they may have taken in the wake of the April 10 and 11 massacre. Even though the Indemnity Act states that the President may authorize the granting of compensation to victims, yet no such commission was set up neither were any befitting compensations offered to victims.
A sitting national assembly member Touma Njie, who herself, was an eye witness of the massacre, said there is a dare need to repeal the indemnity act as it helps to protect the culprits. She accused the then vice president, Isatou Njie Saidy of complicity in the tragedy. The former VP had infamously said the students started the shooting, a statement that still haunts her.
Last year, the association of civil society organizations in the Gambia submitted a 13-point petition to the Minster of Justice for which there has been no response yet.
However, the justice minister, Abubacarr Tambedou reaffirmed the government’s commitment in establishing the truth about the circumstances that led to the death of the students