I was taken downstairs (everyone knows that this is where the bad things happen at the NIA -National Intelligence Agency). They covered my eyes with something, and I felt 3-4 people push behind me, and I felt an injection in my back – you know…like a big staple gun – and then I felt something enter my system…burning me inside. I was screaming, shouting, calling to Allah for help. Then they took me to the beating grounds…” Mr. Njie
Njie, a local taxi driver, was inadvertently caught up in a demonstration by the UDP opposition party on April 14th 2016 and arrested by the former president, Yahya Jammeh’s, security forces. Despite simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Njie was held, without charge for 3 months “Oh my god, Mile 2, it is like hell…no dignity, they treat you like donkeys, animals, even the smallest of boys…no respect” Mr.Njie
Victims of Jammeh portraits by Jason Florio: 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.
The portraits form part of a work-in-progress, along with filming testimonies of the victims and resisters of the former Jammeh regime that we meet. Follow @jasonflorio & @floriotravels for regular updates on this series.
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AfriDocs ‘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.