Long-silent victims of the Gambia’s ousted dictator last week braved the rain to revisit the horror they faced at Kairaba Beach Hotel. The July 21st panel discussion themed “The New Gambia: Which Way Forward?” provided an opportunity to reflect on tyranny at a time Gambians are celebrating freedom and liberty.
Organised by Coalition for Change Gambia (CCG), Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations (GCVHRV) and the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists (DUGA), the forum was punctuated by poignant testimonies from victims who took the opportunity to unveil Gambia’s dark moments under Yahya Jammeh’s regime while re-echoeing calls for justice to prevail.
GCVHRV’s Ayesha Jammeh, whose dad Haruna Jammeh was murdered by the former regime, said Gambians are peace loving people. “As I reflect on the past, I have memories of my father who was a man who will do everything to put a smile on our faces,” she said, attempting to highlight the years of turmoil and emotional distress her family went
As a man of honour and dignity, she added, her father stood up against
injustice under Jammeh’s reign of terror.
She hailed the noble efforts of Gambians to regain their liberty. She believed democracy is worth dying for because “all of us wanted to be liberated.”
She reiterated the center’s commitment to making sure that justice prevails over atrocities committed by the former regime.
Nyang Njie, an inspirational thinker and activist, said Yahya Jammeh was never the Gambia’s problem. “We Gambians are the Gambia’s problem. We should not forget what we have done to create a monster called Yahya Jammeh, and try our best not to repeat it,” he warned.
Confronting Gambia’s shameless decadency during the past 22 years, Nyang Njie lifted a corner of the veil on how Gambians compromised themselves ‘to the niceties and luxuries of life.’
“This led us to de-humanize our character, to sell our souls to vanity. This is how Yahya Jammeh raped us, brutalized us for 22 years,” he stated.
He then deplored the fact that the same faces that destroyed the country are still prevalent in the new Gambia.
Transaction has prevailed over transformation, he said. “This is
business as usual. We want to transform this country,” he voiced out.
Nyang Njie urged Gambians to desist from living in the past. “Let’s reflect, but also let’s move on.”
Former National Assembly Nominated Member Ramzia Diab seized the opportunity to apologize for serving Jammeh’s repressive regime. She called on authorities to be very patients in enduring criticisms coming towards them.
“We’ve shown the world that the ballot is more powerful than the bullet. We’ve also shown the world that Gambians do not deserve tyranny,” she said while taking a critical look at the perilous
journey Gambians went through during the past two decades.
As the tiny West African nation is at the crossroads, Ramzia Diab, a
prominent member of the Coalition that brought change to Gambia, emphasised the need for Gambians to refuse to be stagnant and avoid being locked themselves into Jammeh’s reign of terror.
Bintou Kamara, a communication specialist who once worked with the
French Red Cross to provide urgently needed assistance to African migrants reaching the European shores, unveiled the realities young Gambians are confronted with on their journey to Europe.
She narrated an insightful anecdote of a young Gambian who lost his asylum case in court, but has the resolve to tell the judge that he is no more interested in staying in Europe.
The young man’s move, she said, was prompted by the advent of a new
democratic dispensation, heralding an era of great hope for Gambians.
National Assembly Member (NAM) for Banjul South Fatoumata Njie reminded the gathering that Gambians never voted for king or dictator.” They voted for change,” she indicated.
Hon. Fatoumata Njie said we are all victims of the Jammeh regime. “We have faith in the Barrow administration.”
She called for constitutional review in order to make the change Gambians voted for a reality.
Also addressing the gathering was journalist Frederick Tendeng who called on media practitioners to open their mind to the sense of duty and responsibility. He then added that since the change of regime journalists are yet to fulfill their duty to inform properly. “It is yet to be done,” he stressed, reminding ,journalists to hold government and decision makers accountable.
He drew the attention of the audience to new trends the media environment is going through: business tycoons and politicians taking over media houses at the expense of the right to know.