By Abdoulie John
Civil society activists are intensifying calls for the repeal of the Indemnity Act, a controversial legislation that shields those responsible for the April 2000 student massacres from being prosecuted. The move comes in the wake of the commemoration of the events that led to the cold-blooded killings of unarmed 16 students and a Red Cross volunteer by trigger-happy security officers.
“The Indemnity Act should be repealed. The Act exonerated security officers and public officials for their role in the massacre,” insisted Madi Jobarteh, Program Manager of The Association of Non-governmental Organisation (TANGO), at a presser Wednesday.
Jointly organised by TANGO and April 10-11 Memorial Foundation, the commemoration of these two fateful days aim to help Gambians to memorialise what many described as the ‘darkest days’ in the country’s political and student activism history. Survivors and victims’ families have been pushing for justice for nearly two-decades without, but they hope to ignite public debate about their plight.
Madi Jobarteh said the government should go beyond lip service on April 10-11 issue and address the plight of the victims. “We are severely concerned that 13 months down the line, the Indemnity Act still remains the same, and the condition of the victims has not changed either,” Mr. Jobarteh deplored.
He wondered why there is no serious public effort to honour victims rights and address their needs.
Jobarteh announced that civil society organisations are going to adopt an action plan geared towards making sure the Indemnity Act is repealed, and victims’ concerns are addressed.
Sainey Senghore, one of the victims who took a bullet in the leg during the sad events, made it clear that they will not be silent until justice is being served. He disclosed the horror they went through during their medical treatment in Egypt, saying the Jammeh regime only paid for one month while the two other months were paid by an Egyptian doctor…
Hon. Touma Njai, PPP Parliamentarian for Banjul South, said she was an eye-witness of the dramatic moments that followed the student massacre. “The wrongs must be rectified,” she said, adding that our conscience must be clear. She committed herself to do her utmost best to rally support in the National Assembly for the 17-year old legislation to be repealed.
A renowned Gambian activist reminded the gathering that April 10-11 victims were fighting for our rights. Banka Manneh denounced the attitude of the current government towards the victims, accusing it of not caring about the victims plights.
A prominent figure of the Democratic Union of Gambian Activists said former Gambian dictator should never have returned to Gambia after the senseless killings of defenceless students. Ousainou Mbenga called on civil society groups and victims to be more organised and fight for justice.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, TANGO called on President Adama Barrow to place before the country’s lawmaking body a bill to repeal the Indemnity Act 2001 by the next legislative session.