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Faith Nyasuguta 

The Gambian government has revealed that it will prosecute former President Yahya Jammeh for murder, rape, torture and other alleged crimes committed during his over 20-year tenure.

According to the Ministry of Justice, it accepted all but two of the 265 recommendations made by a commission that investigated alleged crimes committed by the state under the despotic former leader between July 1994 to January 2017.

The commission’s report – presented to the incumbent President Adama Barrow and made public in December – was based on years of witness testimonies.

Ex-leader Jammeh is currently living in exile in Equatorial Guinea, which has no extradition treaty with The Gambia.

The government vowed to prosecute all 70 alleged perpetrators named in the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s twice-delayed report, including former Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy and members of the so-called “Junglers” hit squad.

“For 22 years, Yahya Jammeh ruled The Gambia with an iron fist,” the government wrote in a white paper.

“During his regime, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, enforced disappearances, and numerous grievous human rights violations became part and parcel of his military Junta.”

Many alleged victims, survivors, victims’ families, activists, diplomats noted that they want to see these recommendations put into action by the government of The Gambia, Idris added.

Emmanuel Daniel Joof, head of Gambia’s national human rights commission, said: “We believe seriously that the government will own up, and these recommendations will be implemented.”

“We also understand that not everything will be implemented,” he told Al Jazeera.


The Gambia president Adama Barrow /KBC/

Meanwhile, Abdoulie Fatty, a former local legal consultant for the commission, called the government’s decision “unprecedented”.

“This level of acceptance of recommendations by the government is extraordinary,” Fatty said.

“The fact that there is a strong emphasis for the prosecution of Jammeh and those who bear the greatest responsibility sends a strong message that government is serious about pursuing him and ensuring that he’s held accountable for his crimes,” he added.

The government said it was developing a “prosecution strategy” and would set up a special court located within The Gambia, with “the option of holding sittings in other countries”.

The truth commission had recommended the  prosecution of Jammeh and his accomplices in an internationalised tribunal in another West African country.

“Impunity is a kind of incentive that we are not prepared to serve perpetrators,” Justice Minister Dawda Jallow said in a speech on Wednesday.

“Their resolve to commit these atrocities cannot be stronger than our collective will as a society to hold them to account.”

According to human rights groups, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and summary executions became the regime’s hallmark. Testimonies by alleged perpetrators before the truth commission confirmed that some killings were done under Jammeh’s direction.

The former head of state has also been accused of administering phony HIV “treatment” programmes and of the massacre of some 50 migrants in 2005.

The commission recommended prosecuting the former president and 69 other alleged perpetrators. The government had until Wednesday to respond.

The exiled president is set to be prosecuted /Pixabay/

Jammeh was forced into exile in early 2017 after his shock electoral defeat to Barrow and a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states.

The new administration in The Gambia, under Barrow, set up a commission to look into the extent of corruption during the previous regime.

Reporting in 2019, it revealed looting on a mega scale.

Curiosities, includin as gold-plated pistols, were found among items recovered from one of Jammeh’s homes in The Gambia, but it was his property portfolio that arrested their attention.

The commission discovered that the former president had 281 properties in the country, as well as one in the US and one in Morocco, and controlled more than 100 bank accounts.

There was no way that he could have afforded this on his salary and it concluded that he had misappropriated more than $300m.

The commission also uncovered that more than $1m had been diverted to Zineb Jammeh, the ex-president’s wife. Much of that money had been intended for charities, including Operation Save the Children Foundation.

“Nearly all the funds of the Foundation were wasted on events which from appearance were intended to boost the profile of Zineb Jammeh rather than help Gambian children,” said a government White Paper summing up the commission’s findings.

Jammeh was also found to have extorted money in the form of bribes to grant monopoly licenses for the import of certain items, such as petrol. In addition, he used the threat of withdrawing those licenses to get more money.

And this was where the funds raised to buy a US mansion allegedly came from.


The Jammeh house was in an upmarket neighbourhood near the US capital /DUGA/

Some amateur sleuthing and a chance encounter helped uncover how the ex-president had laundered his money by buying a luxurious property in the US.

A court has now ruled that the $3m (£2.4m) mansion in the state of Maryland, near Washington DC, should be seized from a trust set up by ex-Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh.

Funds raised by the sale of the house should benefit those who were harmed by the former president’s “acts of corruption and abuse of office”, the US authorities say.

A probe by the department of justice (DOJ) found that the money used to buy the six-bedroom house was raised through corruption.

This marbled bathroom, attached to the master bedroom, is one of the house’s seven bathrooms /DUGA/

“Maryland real estate is not a shelter for funds for corrupt rulers who have stolen from their countrymen,” said Selwyn Smith, one of the agents overseeing the case.


“Barrow and his government know that the world is watching, [so] they did not have much choice but to accept the TRRC recommendations,” said Nana-Jo N’dow, the founder of an NGO that campaigns against enforced disappearances and summary executions, whose own father disappeared in 2013.

“The question now is whether Barrow follows through on these recommendations, and swiftly.”

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Faith Nyasuguta

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