By Mustapha Darboe
The Minister of Agriculture Omar Jallow has lent his voice to the cries of the victims former president Yahya Jammeh who have made a case for President Adama Barrow to weed the system of people recognized to have been involved in past atrocities.
Speaking at the Victim’s Centre in Kotu, OJ who is also the leader of the People’s Progressive Party, said the soldiers who have beaten him and threatened him with death following the 1994 coup are still in the army.
“In fact the soldier who broke my eye is still in the system. I saw him on television two days ago,” OJ said.
Jallow was addressing a crowd of victims of the past regime at the Victim Centre where they gathered with Vice President Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajang to share their stories and seek help from the authorities.
The victims were from a diverse background with different stories ranging from torture, death and other forms of ill treatment.
“The truth is if someone slaps me and nothing is being done about it, I will likely going to slap back. The government needs to look into the victims’ cases and try all they can to help them,” Jallow added.
The former opposition leader, who served as an agriculture minister under Dawda Kairaba Jawara, said he was arrested with other high profile former members of the PPP and also some soldiers who were reportedly killed on the infamous November 11.
Jallow said they had already informed him of the time he was supposed to be killed.
“Some of those soldiers were killed before me and they told me that they won’t kill me with a gun because I am not worth their bullet,” he said to a somber crowd.
Landing Sanneh, a former State Guard Commander who was arrested in 2000 after he was accused of plotting a coup with late Almamo Manneh, also added his voice to OJ’s claims.
“I still see people who were involved in abusing us in the army and in civil service but what can I do? I can’t take the law into my own hands,” he told The Standard.
“There is no way I could explain our condition in prison except to simply say it was hell. Our comrades were killed and they are the heroes,” Sanneh said.
The Vice President is so far the most senior government official to have met with the victims since the opening of the Centre, a volunteering organization that is fighting for closure and justice for the past crimes.
The Centre so far has over 400 victims who have registered with them. However, famous victims of the past regime such as the current ministers and top politicians have not registered with the Centre.
The Vice President told The Standard that they are closely going to work with the victims.
“Government is very glad that civil society is taking the lead on this. We are supporting them fully. It takes commitment from both civil society and government to make sure that justice is done,” she said in an exclusive interview at the Centre.
A number of Gambian activists and international human rights advocates such as Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch have started #Jammehtojustice campaign last month to bring the former strongman to justice.
The activists who launched the campaign involved some leading figures at the Centre and they have urged the government to join the crusade for justice.
“We support the #Jammehtojustice campaign because we are bringing in a truth, reconciliation and reparation commission and that is the cause of binging him to justice with all his associates,” the vice president said.
Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, a leading activist in the movement, said the visit of the Vice President was very positive in that it showed the government is responsive.
A former information minister under Jammeh, Dr Janneh was sentenced to life imprisonment for distributing T-shirts with inscriptions “Gambia change dictatorship now”.
He said the Victims Centre has lots of concerns.
“We have lots of victims who are suffering from after effects of torture and psychological problems. But our concern is also about the TRRC bill in making sure that amnesty is not extended to people who were perpetrators of torture and other serious violations of human rights,” he told The Standard.
“Reparation is also an important component because we have families who have lost their breadwinners or suffered economic lost… We also need immediate medical help for some of our victims.”
The former Gambian strongman was accused of several crimes but since his toppling in December last year, no one has yet been brought to book for crimes committed under his rule.