Portraits for Positive Change Gambia – Dodou Sanyang in the room of his recently deceased mother. She was one of over a thousand elderly people abducted on the order of the former president, Yahya Jammeh in 2009. Groups of Jammeh’s paramilitary troops along with his youth brigade, The Green Boys and ‘magicians’ from Guinea went from village to village as part of a nationwide hunt for witches.
The alleged witches were held for up to five days in secret locations and made to drink ‘Kubehjaro’, a hallucinogenic substance, and then forced to confess to witchcraft. Some were also severely beaten and robbed by their captors. Some died at the detention sites, and others like Sanyang’s mother suffered years of illness before dying. Many in Sanyang’s village believe the elderly there were not targeted for witchcraft, but because the village had been an opposition stronghold – Essau, Northbank Division, The Gambia.
Along with making the portraits, we have been filming testimonies with each of the victims, and resisters. Here we are with our Gambian fixer and translator, in Essau, Madi. Here’s how you can help make a change.
From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia, West Africa, as his own personal fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition, with brutality.
“I will rule for a billion years if Allah wills it” Yahya Jammeh
His personal hit squad and intelligence agency carried out tortures, and assassinations with impunity – journalists were gunned down and disappeared, ministers were jailed, students shot in cold blood, and even his own brother and sister were murdered on his orders.
With Jammeh’s 2016 election defeat, he went into exile after a standoff with regional forces, and the victims of his regime started to come forward.
Deposed President Yahya Jammeh waves goodbye to followers who came to see him off from Banjul International Airport as he leaves for exile in Equatorial Guinea, January 2017 © Jason Florio
To view more of the portraits and read the testimonies – firstname.lastname@example.org
More updates, from the Gambia, coming soon
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