Bintu – the 13-year-old daughter of Adama Conteh and Lamin Tunkara. Adama was 7 Months pregnant with Bintu and married less than a year when Lamin was murdered in July 2005. He was part of a group of more than 50 Ghanaians and other West African migrants bound for Europe killed by Gambian security forces, known as the Junglers, who accused the migrants of being mercenaries who wanted to overthrow President Yahya Jammeh.
“The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from Gambia’s President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch. “Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.” HRW.
Shortly before his murder, Lamin was arrested and moved from one police station to another. At each of the two stations, his wife was allowed, each day, to take him food. However, around a week into his detention, Lamin suddenly disappeared from the second police station. A heavily pregnant Adama went to every police station, and prison in the Gambia, looking for him – ‘no one knows him here’, she was repeatedly told. “I did not eat or wash for one week…my family was worried (for the health of her unborn child)”. She searched for Lamin for over a year – “he loved me, he took care of me…I could not believe the rumors that he was dead”. She even went to the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters and was warned off – ‘go home if you do not want any trouble…stay and you will have trouble’.
Thirteen years later, Ghanaian, Martin Kyere, the sole known survivor of the 2005 massacre, returned to the Gambia for the first time since the killings to tell Adama what had happened to her husband, Lamin. It was only then that she, and Lamin’s father, fully accepted that Lamin was dead.
‘We Never Gave Up – stories of courage in Gambia‘ is a 30-minute documentary that highlights the testimonies of some of the men and women that decided to take a stand for human rights during the Yahya Jammeh era. The film describes their fears, their struggles but also their personal motivations. AfriDocs.
On a recent film and photography trip to The Gambia, I met up with Jason Florio, who divides his time between Africa, the Mediterranean, America and the UK. I’d heard of his work through a mutual friend, so the chance to interview Jason about his work covering the migrant crisis, end of a dictator’s rule in West Africa and other stories was an opportunity I grasped with both hands. I expected to meet a man who may be guarded or understandably suspicious of those who may want to interview him as some photojournalists can be; the result of what they have been a witness to, reticent to reveal their subjects in a style or light they had not intended. What or rather who I met, was very different. I found an affable, generous, open man, keen to share his stories for a podcast I wanted to record about his work in photojournalism… Neale James / Breathe Pictures