The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

TRRC billboard, depicting portraits from ‘Gambia – victims. and resisters’ Image ©Jason Florio, The Gambia, West Africa

The tiny West African republic, The Gambia, is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans. However, most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’, as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia as his fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition with brutality. His personal hit squad and National Intelligence Agency carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his cousins were murdered on his order. 

A Gambian man wears a t-shirt of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004). Hydara was assassinated by Gambian security forces on the orders of President Yahya Jammeh. Image ©Jason Florio
A Gambian man wears a t-shirt of murdered newspaper editor and journalist, Deyda Hydara (June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004). Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

In October 2018 the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) launched in The Gambia – a televised commission investigating the human rights violations under the 22-year dictatorial rule of President Yahya Jammeh. The TRRC, suspended over the past couple of months due to COVID19, resumed on Monday 8th June 2020, hearing testimonies from the victims and survivors of Jammeh’s rule, along with those of the alleged perpetrators. It is a long, and extremely painful process for many, to finally have their voices heard, but also to see and hear the voices of those who are implicated in meting out shocking tortures, killings, and human rights abuses, and about what happened to their loved ones. 

‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’

#Portraits4PostiveChange

For over three years, we have been collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the TRRC; and have created permanent and mobile exhibitions of the portraits and testimonies. The exhibitions have now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country, to bring the stories of victims to the people, to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgling democracy – in hopes of opening eyes and winning hearts and minds. And, we will continue making the portraits and filming testimonies once flights to Gambia resume after the lockdown.

Portrait of Amie Lowe - daughter of Ebou Lowe, a soldier executed on Yahya Jammeh's orders after being accused of a coup attempt, The Gambia, West Africa. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Amie Lowe – daughter of Ebou Lowe, a soldier executed on Jammeh’s orders after being accused of a coup attempt. Image ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Portrait of Sankung Balajo - victims of President Yahya Jammeh's witch hunts, The Gambia, in 2009 © Jason Florio
Sankung Balajo – victim of President Yahya Jammeh’s ‘witch hunts’, The Gambia © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio

The Gambia – finding truth and reconciliation

Amie Bayo - portrait, The Gambia, West Africa © Jason Florio 'Gambia - Victims and Resisters of a Regime',
Amie Bayo – Arrested after a peaceful protest, held for 11 days without due process, during which time she was beaten by security forces. © Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
'Victims of Jammeh' The Gambia, West Africa - portraits by Jason Florio
Portraits from ‘Gambia – victims, and resisters’ The Gambia, West Africa. Images ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio
Photography exhibition opening night at the National Centre for Arts and Culture, Banjul. Portraits ©Jason Florio and Helen Jones-Florio Gambia-victims, and resisters, Portraits to Remember
Opening night of ‘Portraits to Remember’ exhibition at the National Centre for Arts & Culture, Banjul, The Gambia, in collaboration with ANEKED & Sites of Conscience. Portraits on display ©Jason Florio/Helen Jones-Florio. Exhibition Image ©Jason Florio

Current Location: June 2020 – easing lockdown in the UK

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