By Kebba Jeffang
Survivors of mass shootings of students in the Gambia eighteen years ago expressed anticipation for justice.
Fourteen students were killed by live bullets on April 10 and 11, in the year 2000 by the armed security personnel of The Gambia.
The shootings were prompted by country’s student union led nationwide demonstration calling for justice for two of their colleagues.
It was earlier reported a boy student was allegedly beaten and eventually died as a result in the hands of fire fighters while a girl student was raped by the security officers.
The Gambia Student Union (GAMSU) decided to engage in demonstration after its diplomatic plans to engage the government on the two cases was disregarded by Yahya Jammeh’s government.
Abdoukarim Jammeh is one of the survivors who have been left with a permanent disability. He said Jammeh’s government had no interest of treating them.
“We will use this year’s anniversary as a period to remind the authorities and all men and women of conscience that we are still suffering in silence. We are waiting to be healed,” he said.
To him, the new government of President Barrow is slow in acting on his promises regarding their plight.
“I am disappointed in the slow move of the new government in fulfilling their promises. We are suffering and we need treatment. It is eighteen years now,” he said.
“I was shot on the left knee. The bullet entered inside and went out the knee cap. I was admitted at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), now Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital (EFSTH) in Banjul for four months and discharged later,” he said.
According to him, he is still feeling the pain especially when he sits for a long time. Jammeh limps on one leg as he uses a walking stick (clutch) to support himself when walking.
He said the former government being the perpetrator decided to ignore them in terms of treatment and access to justice.
Yusupha Mbye was a grade 10 student at Pipeline Comprehensive Senior Secondary School at the time of the incident.
He explained that he was in school when the security officers asked them to leave by force.
“On my way going home, when I reached the Post Office trying to cross to the other end of the road the bullet shot me on my back, just near my backbone,” he recalled.
He added: “I was then hospitalized at RVTH for a month. The former government evacuated me to Egypt for overseas treatment. I spent three months in Egypt,” he said.
However, he could not walk again. He said all his medical treatment certificates were seized.
“I didn’t complete my school. I stopped at grade ten. I am not doing anything because I cannot do anything for myself,” he said.
He expressed disappointment that president Barrow has failed to act on his promise that he gave him when they met last year regarding treatment and access to justice.
A female victim Jarra Sumarreh was around seventeen years old when the tragedy happened and she was at grade 10. She is now 37 years of age.
Unlike others, Jarra did not suffer a gunshot but severely tortured and eventually became a disable.
“For me I was shocked then I forgot my pain because they shot my younger brother. I was beaten, taking to the Kanifing Mobile Police Station and thrown at the back of the truck. I was later released and I went home,” she said.
“I pitied my mother because two of her children are victimized. I was beaten while the other one was shot to almost death.
So it is too much for her so I ended up hiding my own pain and claimed for my younger brother. So they didn’t realize until I fell sick later on,” she said.
She too claimed that the government is not doing enough as she hears less information regarding their status.
“All what I heard is that they formed the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission. That is the only thing I heard and that is the only thing we are hoping on. If they will work out positively for us I don’t know because it has been a long time,” she said
After the April 2000 incident, a Coroner’s Inquest was set up which confirmed that the students were killed by live bullets. The conclusion of the Commission of Inquiry was also rejected by the former president.
The new government says it would treat all atrocities of the predecessor’s administration at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission that is expected to commence this year.