By Mustapha Darboe
Gambia’s former autocratic ruler, Yahya Jammeh, is being hosted in a 7-star hotel, one of the 17 opulent residences Theodore Obiang owns across Equatorial Guinea.
This was revealed on Saturday by Tutu Alicante, a human rights activist from Equatorial Guinea.
Alicante, a rights activist with an organization called Equatorial Guinea Justice, was in Gambia over the weekend to join a coalition of civil society activists, international lawyers and rights organizations who launched a campaign to bring Jammeh to justice.
“Unfortunately, I have to tell you that Yahya Jammeh is in a seven-star hotel. Jammeh is enjoying a luxurious life in one of the 17 opulent palaces that President Theodore Obiang owns across Equatorial Guinea. As I listen to the stories of these victims, I cannot but feel ashamed as an Equatorial Guinean myself that my government is sheltering Yahya Jammeh. I feel that my government is complicit in the alleged crimes and now the suffering of the victims of his dictatorship,” Alicante said.
He however said there will eventually be justice for atrocities under Jammeh.
“The arch of moral history is long; that in the case of Hissène Habré in Chad it took 27 years to get justice. I don’t know how long it is going to take here. But that arch inevitably bends towards justice. So there is no doubt that if we speak, there will be justice for victims of Yahya Jammeh,” he said.
The groups participating in the campaign include: The Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Article 19 West Africa, Coalition for Change in Gambia, TANGO, EG Justice (Equatorial Guinea), TRIAL International (Switzerland), Human Rights Watch, Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, Aids-Free World and La Fondation pour l’égalité des chances en Afrique.
Reed Brody, the Human Rights Watch lawyer instrumental in the campaign to bring to justice the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré, is advising the Campaign.
Campaigners said their objective is fair trial for alleged crimes of Yahya Jammeh, as well as of those who bear the greatest responsibility in the abuses of his government.
Alicante said Jammeh found Equatorial Guinea as a suitable place to go because that country is a “crime syndicate” and a safe haven for anyone trying to evade justice.
“In that context, where there is an absence of an independent judiciary or any other state institution, the absence of any meaningful civil society including the media or any opposition forces to hold the government accountable, that crime syndicate has become a perfect heaven for anyone trying to escape victims of a major crime like Jammeh,” he said.
Alicante added: “But there is nothing that president Obiang fears more than victims speaking about how they would want to hold someone like Yahya Jammeh accountable.”