The Gambia: Yahya Jammeh admits to 9 executions; is the number of executed 26 (2012 updated)

Mathew K. Jallow

Mathew K. Jallow

The oldest of the nine inmates, Lamin Darboe, had his death sentence commuted to a life in prison years ago by former President Dawda K Jawara. The youngest, Buba Yarboe of Busumbala village, suffered severe mental illness, and was totally incapable of making rational decisions, much less have the capacity to understand what was about to happen to him. And beautiful Tabara Samba, the only female in the group, a Senegalese married to a Gambian, with little children at home, who was tried and sentenced for murder in an apparent manslaughter case, was gang raped by her captors before her gruesome execution. This is not a preamble of the opening chapter of an Agatha Christie crime novel. It is real, and it happened in The Gambia. What all three individuals had in common was their cruel, mind-numbing execution at Mile 2 Central Prisons; an act of brutality so unimaginable, it left an entire nation grief stricken, disgusted and in utter disbelief. On that fateful early August 23 night in 2012, when nine inmates were led out of their concrete-walled and steel door cells and executed in cold blood with such willful disregard for human life, the Gambia descended further into new depths of mindless barbarity.

Clearly, Yahya Jammeh, it seemed, had finally dug his own grave. This time once again, his fate will not be determined by the primitive superstitions and customary devil worship that have dictated the way he ruled Gambia with bewildering ignorance; instead, his life from now on rests in the hands of the Gambian people. For the first time in nineteen years, Gambians both at home and abroad are crying out in deadly rage in a united voice and a determination never before seen in all the years of Gambian tyranny and political madness. For nineteen years, Yahya Jammeh has ruled The Gambia with an extraordinary cruelty and mean-spiritedness, in the process turned himself into an object of hate and scorn, but it is his extremely maddening indifference to reality that has locked him into a perpetual state of delusion and illusions of grandiosity. The relationship between Yahya Jammeh and the Gambian has been a marriage made in hell, and the time for his regime to be thrown out came and went with each extraordinary abuse of power, which included murders and forced disappearances of fellow citizens. But the recent execution at Mile 2 Central Prison, of as many as twenty-six helpless prisoners, is the straw that broke the camel’s back and sealed Yahya Jammeh’s fate.

The executions in Mile two Prisons of so many innocent Gambians is more than anyone can bear, and if Yahya Jammeh thinks this egregious act of violence will just go away like the massacre of the sixteen students or the execution of forty-four Ghanaians, he is clearly underestimating the resolve of the Gambian people to expose the primitive African devil worship that is driving his belief system. But more baffling still, while the regime admitted to the execution of nine inmates, the real number could be as many as twenty-six people execution on the orders of Yahya Jammeh, and unless the regime can refute these claims convincingly and unequivocally, Gambians and the international community will continue to assume that twenty-six inmates were actually executed. This execution case is similar to the massacre of forty-four Ghanaians massacre twelve years ago in which the regime again admitted to murdering eight when the actual number is forty-four executed. To make matters even worst, rumors of the use of the body parts of the executed in ritual sacrifice are rife, and given Yahya Jammeh’s extreme dependence on primitive African belief systems, the rumors are not far-fetched and have since been corroborated by an exiled former military member who took part in the executions. These undeniable ritual sacrifices will further aggravate the Gambian people and animate even more violent outrage among Gambians and the international community.

Today, a year after Yahya Jammeh executed as much as twenty-six Gambians and Senegalese in Mile 2 Prison, lost in the conversation is the issue of burial of the dead. So far, families of the executed have not received the bodies of their loved ones in order to give them decent religious burials according to local customs and Islamic tradition. The relatives of the executed repeatedly pleaded with the regime to retrieve the dead bodies of their executed relatives, which has continued to fall on deaf ears a year after their murders. In the same vein, the Gambian people have publicly supported the quest by grief-stricken family members for the return of the dead bodies from Yahya Jammeh. The Senegalese demand for the surrender of the bodies of Tabara Samba and Gibbi Bah for repatriation to their villages in Senegal for burial has repeatedly been ignored. Nonetheless, to this day, President Macky Sall has failed to demand the return of the bodies of Senegalese citizens in order to accord them the proper burials they deserve in accordance with religious customs. Yahya Jammeh has no authority under any law to continue to detain the bodies of the executed. Rather, family members of the dead have the rights to demand the return of their dead relatives, and those in Gambia must not allow irrational fear of Yahya Jammeh force the abandonment of their obligation to their deceased relatives.

This month, marking a year after the Mile 2 Prison executions, Gambians across the globe are again expressing outrage with demonstrations and a symposium in Dakar, Senegal, a move complemented by Senegalese for the execution of their fellow compatriots. In Gambia the media appears fearful to mark the anniversary of the executions. The illegality of the executions in view of the fact the legal remedies for the executed were not exhausted is an established fact. But sadly, Yahya Jammeh does not respond to the Constitution, the law or simple common sense. Time and again, he has shown unwillingness to respect the Gambian Constitution and the laws of the land, and scores of letter from politicians over the years have been ignored with reckless abandon. As it is, the time for Gambians to overcome their fears and renew demands for the return of the dead bodies. Today, thousands of Diaspora Gambians fed up with the regime are joining voices seeking the forced return of the dead bodies. Gambians cannot continue to be held back by fear; besides if such blatant acts of violence against fellow citizens do not embolden Gambian’s resolve, it will mean acceptance of the devaluation of Gambian life.

Today, a year after the massacre of as many as twenty-six Gambians and Senegalese from Mile 2 Central Prison, the broader debate has to shift focus to the removal of Yahya Jammeh. After the latest act of unprovoked violence against innocent citizens, Yahya Jammeh has demonstrated that he is unqualified to continue to rule Gambia at home and abroad must show they care by mustering the courage to help dispatch Yahya Jammeh from power. It is hoped that a united Diaspora front will seek to work hand in hand with the political establishment at home in order to force Yahya Jammeh’s removal from power. It is unconscionable and outrageous that Gambia’s military and fellow citizens to continue to wallow in senseless fear of Yahya Jammeh. The Jugglers, Green Boys and Cassamance MFDC rebels who provide protection to Yahya Jammeh do not have monopoly of mean-spiritedness. Everyone has an animal side in him capable of returning cruelty with cruelty. Each one of us has that reptilian cruelty in us that can manifest in extraordinary violent acts. Today, Senegal and the broader international community are also ready for Yahya Jammeh’s departure from the face of the earth. But as Yahya Jammeh begins “vocation” today to insulate himself from publicity of the anniversary of Mile 2 Prison executions, it is apparent that he did not get the memo from Liberia’s Samuel Doe, Libya’s Mumar Khadaffi and many other tyrants of the past. Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.


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