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.
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.
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.
A short documentary about the 56 West African migrants forcibly disappeared and killed in 2005 in Gambia by security forces on orders of ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh. The film follows Isaac Mensah, one of the victim’s sons, who shares the family’s account of how his father’s death/disappearance continues to take an emotional toll on the family; and his journey to more answers.
‘I Cannot Bury My Father‘ reflects on the need for a wider public conversation around migration, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and the issue of ensuring accountability.
#NeverAgainGambia – Remembering Deyda Hydara, June 9, 1946 – December 16, 2004, The Gambia. Hydara was gunned down by assailants, whilst in his car, as he was returning from work, in 2004. He was a journalist and co-founder of The Point newspaper and an advocate of press freedom. Hydara was also a fierce critic of the government of President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media.
“No, this was done to me, and I want justice… these men should be punished” Bintu, victim of rape whilst in police custody
‘Bintu Nyabally was detained for five days, beaten and raped by three masked security officers at the Gambia Police Intervention Unit (PIU) HQ, after being arrested during a May 9th 2016 rally to demand the release of illegally detained protesters from previous rallies held on April 15th/16th, 2016. When asked if she would prefer that we keep her identity anonymous her adamant reply was “No, this was done to me, and I want justice…these men should be punished”‘ From the series ‘Gambia – Victims and Resisters of a Regime’
Interviewing sole survivor of a massacre, Ghanaian, Martin Kyere. Martin was one of a group of over 50 West African migrants, who were endeavouring to reach Europe when the boat they boarded in Senegal veered off course and landed in The Gambia… read more