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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Letters to the Editor

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Agony of victims, a betrayal by the State

Dear editor,

After every outcry for help, amplified through a WhatsApp audio or a Facebook picture, we could rush to the aid of a victim, empathise, provide a shoulder to lean on, give some financial support, blame and chastise. We can. Because it is ad hoc, the relief can only be temporary. When the pain subsides, through the “anaesthesia” of the philanthropist, we move on to the next issue until another victim cries out, until another WhatsApp audio is shared, until another Facebook photo emerges. This is good but it is reactionary, unsustainable, temporary, individual. For how long can we continue with such sporadic, spontaneous, as they cry for appeal type of help to the victims of the Jammeh Government?

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It is great to be altruistic but greater it would be if we provide support to the Jammeh Government victims in a deliberate, systematic, systemic and planned way; support to them not as charity or favour but as rights that they have and obligations that the State must fulfill. The victims don’t need handouts and pity; they want their rights fulfilled.

We must all then demand that the State fulfills its obligations to the victims, regardless of which Government committed the atrocities and which Government is in power and can claim innocence. The “perpetrator” of the human rights violations was the State – State agents, State institutions, State apparatuses, State tools, and all maintained and paid for by the State. That State has not either away or replaced. It is here. We only replaced a Government. And still the Government is an instrument of the State, the Government in power must fulfill the State’s obligations towards State victims, must provide redress, restore rights damaged and ensure justice to the victims. There is no escaping these obligations. We must all bring pressure to bear on the State to live up to its obligations and commitments.

Let us not throw the State’s obligations onto the lap of the UDP, the political party. Doing so would mean one thing only: that the April 2016 protesters did it for party and not for country. Lest we forget, they were out against a draconian electoral provision which shacked or seriously circumscribed our right, all of us, to electoral participation. So the fight was for all of us. The fight was against the State and it was the State which unleashed indescribable terror and brutality against them. We are told that Solo Sandeng and his fellow freedom fighters went out to protest unbeknown to the UDP executive. What a sacrifice, actuated by patriotism!!

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But much more, apportioning blame to UDP would take to the background, out of the public glare, the struggle of those who fought against State violations and impunity without party support, such as the April 2000 student protesters. They too have rights which the State must fulfill.

If we are all conscience stricken and believe in accountability, then we must all speak out and demand justice now for all the victims of the State, demand that the State fulfills its obligations to them, demand that the State puts in place a deliberate policy to ensure health and dignity to its own victims. Some form of justice, restoration of health and human dignity, do not have to wait until the TRRC is up and running. And this justice shouldn’t have waited this long.

It is an unfathomable betrayal by the State that it has not fulfilled its obligations towards those it violated with impunity. It is a greater, unforgivable and indescribable betrayal by society, you and I and all, for failing to stand up for those who gave up life and limb and liberty for us to live in freedom, from the April 2000 freedom fighters to the April 2016 heroes and martyrs. We can force the State to act, in many different ways. We have the power and the influence. We have the courts. We have the voice.

We should therefore hold the Barrow Government accountable for whatever befalls our freedom fighters and rights activists. His Government is the organ of the State and under obligation to fulfill the rights of all the victims. Unfortunately, it is now all about realpolitik and the next election, and those who paid the ultimate price for us to be free are no longer even on the menu.

Imagine if we had sent only a 6 person delegation to the 2018 UNGA, onboard a commercial flight; or just reduced the days and entourage number of the Meet the People Tour, may be, just may, we would have saved enough money to give first class health service in first class hospitals to all those suffering debilitating illnesses as a result of State impunity and aggression.

Everything rises and falls with leadership. There is the problem.

Njundu Drammeh
Child rights activist

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