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Togo joins Ghana in seeking justice for killings linked to Jammeh

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Two Togolese have recently been discovered to be among about 50 West African migrants massacred in 2005 by a paramilitary unit controlled by former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International said Monday. The victims’ families said that the Togolese government should support efforts in Ghana to investigate and prosecute the case.
In July 2005, the Togolese nationals, Yawovi Agbogbo and Kossi Odeyi, left Senegal on board a motorized canoe with several dozen Ghanaians as well as Nigerians, Senegalese, Ivorians, and one Gambian, with a view to reaching Europe. Three days later, Agbogbo called his family to say that they had been arrested in Gambia, but they never heard from him again.
“We believe Yawovi Agbogbo and Kossi Odeyi were among those murdered along with the Ghanaians by a death squad taking orders from former President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. “We hope Togo’s government will support efforts in Ghana to bring their killers to justice.”
A report published on May 16, 2018 by Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International, revealed that the migrants were killed after being detained by Jammeh’s closest associates in the army, the navy, and the police. Some victims were cut up with machetes and axes and others were shot. The groups based their report on interviews with 30 Gambian former security officials, including 11 officers directly involved in the incident.
Following the publication of the report, several families of the Ghanaian victims called for justice for their relatives.
Agbogbo’s family, after hearing information on the report on Radio France Internationale, also came forward.
“In July 2005, Yawovi had told me he was going to leave for Europe in a boat,” said Nestor Womeno, Yawovi Agbogbo’s brother. “Three days after that conversation, he called me from Gambia to tell me they had been arrested and were in a police station.”
Womeno has not heard from his brother since. He later found out he had been killed, but said he did not know the circumstances until the report was published.
Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International found that on July 22, 2005, the anniversary of Jammeh’s taking power in the Gambia in 1994, the Gambian navy arrested the migrants and accused them of being mercenaries involved in a coup attempt.
Among the group of about 50 migrants, only Martin Kyere, a Ghanaian, is known to have survived. In February 2018, he told Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International that he managed to escape just before other migrants were apparently murdered: “I thought, ‘We’re going to die.’ But as the truck went deeper into the forest, I was able to get my hands free. I jumped out from the pickup and started to run into the forest. The soldiers shot toward me but I was able to hide. I then heard shots from the pickup and the cry, in Twi [Ghanaian language], ‘God save us!’”
Despite efforts by Ghana, whose nationals made up the greatest number of victims – about 40 – as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations to investigate the case, no arrests were made while Jammeh was in power.
A joint ECOWAS and UN report, which was never made public, concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the killings and forced disappearances but that “rogue elements” in the Gambian security services, “acting on their own,” were responsible.
The evidence disclosed in Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International’s investigations, however, shows that those responsible for these murders were not “rogue elements” but the “Junglers,” a paramilitary unit operating under Jammeh’s orders.
Source: reliefweb.int

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