It’s been a dramatic week for Gambia.
As Gambians stayed glued to their radios and TVs, three admitted henchmen of former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh implicated him before the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) in a series of political killings.
Under the sharp questioning of TRRC lead counsel Essa Faal, Lt. Malick Jatta, Sgt. Omar Jallow, and Staff Sgt. Amadou Badjie – former members of the “Junglers,” Jammeh’s elite hit-squad – named their ex-boss in a series of crimes that they claimed to have carried out, including:
- The 2004 murder of newspaper editor Dayda Hydara. Jatta told the TRRC that the Junglers’ leader Tumbul Tamba
gave each 50,000 GMD (US$1,250 at the time) as a token of appreciation from Jammeh after the killing.
- The gruesome 2013 murder of Alhajie Ceesay and Ebou Jobe, two Gambian-American businessmen. Jallow and Badjie said that Jammeh ordered that “they be chopped into pieces.”
- The 2005 killing of 56 African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians. Jallow testified that Lt. Col. Solo Bojang, the operation’s leader, told the men that “the order from Jammeh is that they are all to be executed.” The testimonies of Jatta and Jallow corroborate a May 2018 report by Human Rights Watch and TRIAL, and flatly contradict a still unpublished United Nations-ECOWAS report, which found that Jammeh’s government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the massacre.
The witnesses also said that they participated in the strangling death of Haruna Jammeh, Jammeh’s cousin, as well as the torture of the outspoken cleric Imam Baba Leigh and the 2012 execution of nine prison inmates, among other actions.
These revelations come a month after Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International reported that three Gambian woman, including former pageant queen Fatou (“Toufah”) Jallow, accused Jammeh of sexually assaulting them. Ms. Jallow will testify before the TRRC later this year.
It was painful for the victims’ family members, with whom I work , to listen to the testimony of the killers of their loved ones, but they recognized that these revelations are a huge step toward justice and the day that they might sit across a courtroom from Yahya Jammeh, who now lives in Equatorial Guinea.
As Deyda Hydara’s son Baba Hydara told me: “It wasn’t easy to go through it, but this shows that we are on the right path and that justice is coming.”