It appears the administration in Gambia is bent on making sure that the former president of the country, Yahya Jammeh, answers to the law despite the ex-leader fleeing to neighboring Guinea after loosing the elections two years ago.
Since his exile, there have been reports accusing the ex-president of crimes which include killing journalists, torturing and killing political opponents, and sponsoring a campaign that allowed so-called “witch doctors” to abduct hundreds of people and force them to drink unknown substances during his over 2 decades rule from 1994 until January 2017.
Last year, the country assembled a Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission known as the TCRR made up of experienced judges to look into the accusations.
The TCRR, who commenced hearing on Monday, have created a platform for alleged victims of Yahya Jammeh’s regime to voice their grievances publicly and officially for the first time.
There are reports that Jammeh’s personal paramilitary unit, the Junglers, was known to be particularly brutal. The Human Rights Watch has it on official records that the group executed more than 50 Ghanaian, Nigerian, and other West African migrants in July 2005.
Prominent personalities in the country have surprisingly registered their interests to testify against Jammeh. Ebrima Chongan, a senior commander of the gendarmerie in 1994 when Jammeh staged a coup was the first to testify.
Testifying before the TCRR, Chongan recounted his ordeal during the coup and in prison.
“Afterwards, Yahya Jammeh came and others. They had their rifles. I thought that at any moment they would come for me.
“And you have the rats. You know you have to fight with the rats for the food. You know Mile 2 is the only place I saw the rats; they even eat soap,” he said.
Ebrima Chongan is one of hundreds of high profile citizens expected to testify.
Amnesty International through its campaigner for West Africa, Marta Colomer has hailed the hearing saying it is important for justice and equity in the country.
“This is a sign as well of the strong commitment of the government to break with the systemized human rights violations that Gambians have suffered for twenty two years,” said Colomer.
Last week, a video of Jammeh and the president of Equatorial Guinea (where he is currently exiled) Teodoro Obiang dancing together on New Year’s Eve surfaced on the internet and observers have expressed fear that the President may not want to extradite Jammeh to face justice if the need arises.