By Emmanuel Daniel Joof (Paps)
- April 10 and 11 of 2000 massacre marks a dark day in our calendar. A day when security personnel under the orders of Yahya Jammeh gunned down 14 unarmed civilians, 12 being school children demonstrating against the alleged torture and killing of a fellow student by fire brigade officers at Brikama Fire Station and the rape of a student by men in military mufti at the Bakau Independence Stadium. Many other suffered gunshot wounds and were maimed for life while scores were arrested and detained by Jameh’s NIA thugs.
The then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Pap Cheyasin Secka defended the government’s action and the Vice President Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy went as far as misinforming the public that among the student demonstrators were armed men who first fired at the security personnel and the likes of Lawyer Joseph Joof (who subsequently became the Minister of Justice) was heard openly stating that if the students were not disciplined at home, then they will be disciplined by the security personnel. No sooner had Lawyer Joof uttered this despicable statement by than being offered the post of Attorney General & Minister of Justice.
It is however worth mentioning lest we forget the efforts of a group of spirited human rights activists under the banner of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders – the likes of Mohamed Lamin Sillah (former Secretary General of Amnesty International), Fatou Jagne Senghore (now of Article 19), Adelaide Sosseh, Abubacar Tambadou (now Minister of Justice), Lawyer Emmanuel Daniel Joof, Ousman Manjang, who coopted other senior and well intentioned lawyers such as Mariam Denton, Awa Sisay-Sabally, and Ousman Sillah and others who (free of charge), sought redress in the courts and successfully obtained the release of scores of students arrested, detained and tortured during the aftermath of the shootings.
4.The Coalition of Human Rights Defenders subsequently visited the injured at the RVTH and at heir homes, requested families of those killed to seek redress in the courts, they held press conferences condemning the government’s actions, requesting for the setting up of a commission of inquiry, demanded that the perpetrators to be tried and the victims and their families compensated. The only elder statesman who publicly condemned the actions of the government and the security personnel on Radio 1 FM was the late Pa Dacosta- May his soul rest in peace. Our religious and opinion leaders at the time kept a blind eye and remained mute.
- As I have stated in an earlier article, April 10 and 11 incidents were testing grounds for Jammeh and once he discovered that he could intimidate Gambians with impunity, he unleashed his brutality on the rest of the population. Soon after his successful gunning down of the students without any ramification, Jammeh started with the assassination attempt on the life of Lawyer Ousman Sillah, the assassination of Deyda Hydara, the killing of Chief Ebrima Manneh and many others, the burning of media houses, the unlawful detention and torture of many, the plundering of the economy, his phony HIV/AIDS treatments, his witch hunting exercises, self-acquirement of titles such as Sheikh, Professor and Nasurudin and his near crowning of himself as king, his usurpation of the judiciary and appointment of mainly Nigerian mercenary judges, his detention and torture of Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana and Imam Baba Leigh, the public abuse and humiliation of many Gambian- the list goes on.