15 Years On, Ghana’s Hunt for Jammeh Intensifies
Ghanaian activists have commemorated the brutal killing of its 44 citizens allegedly by Gambian security forces on the orders of ex- dictator Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday, saying the country could try Jammeh on their home soil since ‘small Gambia may not be ready for many reasons.’
Some members of the special trained killer-squad of Jammeh who participated in the cruel-style murder have confessed to have carried out the exercise which abruptly ended the lives of at least 56 West African migrants including the Ghanaians whose boat were traced on Gambian waters bound for Europe.
At least 9 Nigerians, two Togolese and two Ivorians, Gambian and Senegalese citizens were also involved and they were tormented before being macheted into pieces and thrown into a well across the border into Senegalese region of Casamance, as testified by their killers before the ongoing Truth, Reconciliation and reparations Commission last year in Banjul.
Today, July 22 2020, marks exactly fifteen years since that incident occurred in 2005 and Ghanaian activists convened a Zoom conference to further call for swift and fresh international investigation into the saga.
“…since the crime took place across two countries – Gambia and Senegal – and involved victims from six countries and the prime suspect, Jammeh, now resides in Equatorial Guinea, an independent international investigation is the best thing to uncover all the facts,” Jammeh to Justice (J2J) Campaign Lead CDD Ghana Regina Oforiwah Amanfo said in her opening statement.
“It’s our sincere hope that this call for fresh international investigation into the brutal murder of the 44 Ghanaians to unravel the truth surrounding the injustices meted out to these vulnerable and marginalized migrants whose only crime was to travel to perform life necessities, will come out so justice can be served for the surviving victim and the victims’ families.”
Regina says 15 years after this gruesome murder, families are yet to learn the truth or to receive justice despite calls for justice by local and international human rights organizations even though there’s a growing evidence that brutal murder was carried out on the orders of the former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh.
Commenting on the importance of the anniversary, she noted that the J2J Ghana is using the day to highlight the need for the Ghanaian government as well as governments in West Africa to promote a new international investigation and ultimately seek justice for the victims and their families.
“This call has become necessary because the chain of events leading to the killings is still unclear despite the confessions of several Gambian soldiers who participated in the July 2005 killings.
“…the victims’ families remained traumatized because there’s no known information as to exactly how and where the migrants were buried in Senegal.”
In a documentary produced by the J2J entitled Justice in Limbo, it revealed that even though the Gambia government handed some bodies to Ghana in 2009, their bodies did not undergo a DNA process to ascertain that those corpses were their countrymen.
“…and their families have questioned whether those bodies were those of their murdered relatives of migrants.”
In 2009, the two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding entailing the agreement of reopening investigation as and when new evidence arose after which the Gambia provided USD500, 000 towards the burial expenses of those who were killed while eight bodies were flown to Ghana for burial.
However, according to the local media report at that time in 2009, Jammeh’s government rather attributed the massacres to rogue elements acting on their own. This followed the submission to the ECOWAS the joint fact-finding report done by ECOWAS and UN. But their findings were not made public at the time.
The chairperson of the J2J campaign, Professor Kwame Karikari is shocked by the way governments protect dictators who maimed their own people.
“Yahya Jammeh is not alone,” he said, recalling the ‘Ethiopian butcher,’ Edi Amin who had a sanctuary in Saudi Arabia and the former Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore who was exiled in Morocco.
“Now, this suggests to us that in Africa, our governments generally almost one to the last are not interested in justice for victims of such cruelties, rather will go all out to protect [the perpetrators.]”
The former executive director of Media Foundation for West Africa challenged the civil society groups to extend the fight outside Ghana engaging their government.
“What we are doing here shouldn’t stop here. We Ghanaians should propose and demand from our government that because the majority of these people who were murdered came from Ghana, we will like that this government agrees for a trial of Yahya Jammeh on our soil here.
“For many reasons, small Gambia may not be the right place and the government there had said so,” he said.
Karikari firmly holds that the international law permits Ghana to charge Jammeh accordingly and try him in Ghana. “Let us all try and put our minds together and a way of bringing this cruel matter to a closure.”
Jeggan Grey Johnson, Program Officer – Africa Region for Open Foundations said it is shameful for not achieving justice for the victims for all this while.
“After almost 4 years into a new dispensation in the Gambia, and after at least 3 presidents in Ghanaians administrations, one would have thought that this reputation of a plea for justice would have been answered if for nothing else, at least the powers that be, those responsible to uphold justice and human rights and those we elect to protect us, to root us impunity would, if for nothing else act out of shame.
“Shame for the mere fact that we continue to ask for our rights to be respected for the memory of those slain on that fateful day, July the 22.”
11 human rights organizations across the world released a statement on Tuesday, stating that the families of more than 50 Ghanaians and other West African migrants killed in Gambia and Senegal 15 years ago have yet to learn the full truth and obtain justice concerning the massacre.
“A credible international investigation is needed if we’re ever going to get to the bottom of the 2005 massacre of West African migrants and create the conditions to bring those responsible to justice,” said Emeline Escafit, legal adviser at TRIAL International. “Until now, information has come out in dribs and drabs, year after year, from different sources.”
“I have been fighting for 15 years for truth and for justice for my companions who were killed,” said Martin Kyere from Ghana, who jumped into the forest from a moving truck carrying other detained migrants who were killed shortly thereafter.
When Kyere returned to Ghana he began rallying the victims’ families. “African leaders say that migrants should be treated with dignity, but for us, honoring their memory means justice, not lies and cover-ups.”