Jammeh’s HIV Cure: Nakedness and Forced Labor Come to Light
A HIV patient has accused the former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh for stripping off her dignity and others by forcing them to undress naked, subjecting them to forced labor and drinking concoction without consent.
Fatou M. Jatta appeared before the truth commission on Wednesday as the TRRC begins its exclusive hearing into the presidential HIV & Aids treatment program.
“You’d be asked to undress naked and then cover yourself with only a towel and lie flat on the stretch. The president would then conduct a massage by himself. They would massage every part of the body including the private part. The camera was on me throughout,” she tells the commission.
She stated that her consent was never sought before Jammeh would conduct a massage to the extent of her private part.
She alleged that like other patients, she’ll be forced to drink concoction fetched from the bucket by Jammeh. She describes the liquid substance as brownish and blackish.
“I can say my suffocation began from that point. I kept vomiting. When I lay on the stretcher, I heard one Dr. Jah saying Sir, can we take her to the hospital?” Jammeh would say no, she will be okay.”
“Each time you are about to drink medicine, you will be massaged and take the concoction. It was difficult with me because it was uncomfortable.”
According to her, her health status deteriorated when she started Jammeh’s treatment program.
“My CD4 count was good before I would join the treatment and I was also feeling healthy. But after the start of the treatment, my health deteriorated, I was under constant stress and I was also thinking a lot which the disease doesn’t want.”
Jatta said while under treatment, they were held like prisoners. According to her, anytime there was a festival in Kanilai, they would be taken there and they would be shown in public as those undergoing Jammeh’s treatment.
“We were held under despicable conditions at the treatment centre. It got to a point that we were many there to an extent that some people happened to get some fresh ailments different from HIV. Some contracted tuberculosis and our living conditions were in bad shape.
“It’s like they stepped on our rights because we suffer there a lot. They disregarded our rights. I could remember at one point, while being held under treatment, we were denied to take part in the national elections. We couldn’t get to vote which was our fundamental right.”
She also alleged that they were forced to cook, wash basins and even scale fish at State House while under treatment as well as to work on Jammeh’s farm in Kanilai.
“There was a time he [Jammeh] said he suspected some people amongst us of being witches and wizards. One day he told us that he brought us for treatment but not to eat human beings. This was at the State House and he brought the stove to smoke the entire environment.”
In Kanilai, she recalled being placed in a large parlour where a man was seated and later brought a big stove and calabash beside him. “When we got there, we all sat down and they would call us one after the other. You’ll first go to the stove containing incense where the man will put powder and there will be smoke.”
According to her, they would later be given this was done under
She said they will be forced again to drink concoction under the military supervision and in front of camera. She said those who reacted abnormally will be considered witches and wizards. “There were some who urinated on themselves.”
“Personally, I suffered a lot. I can remember I used to have strength before taking his medicines. But as I’d be taking the medicines, I’d be getting weaker and weaker. Many people even thought that I would die there. It deteriorated my health.
She spent nine months on treatment before abandoning it, giving the ex-leader an excuse that she was furthering her education.
Jammeh claimed that his cure for HIV will only last for three days. But Jatta disputed the claim. “In our case, we spent six months but we were not cured.”
In the TRRC proceedings, the commission played a recorded video where Jammeh held a meeting with some doctors announcing that he has been mandated to conduct HIV treatment on the conditions that it will be public.
“I have now decided that I will participate fully in the treatment of certain critical cases. Since 1994, there have been many Gambians who know what I can do. A lot of people have been treated in silence under strict conditions of confidentiality,” Jammeh said in a meeting more than a decade ago.
“And one would wonder why sometimes I’d start giving medicines to the public and all of a sudden it would stop. The reason being, I have to work on the instructions, directives on what I should do it with the knowledge I have. All along, I didn’t have a mandate to do it publicly or in great numbers. It was only restricted to a few numbers so as to be able to prove to people that what I said is what I can do before I have the permission to do it publicly.
He claimed that the efficacy of his medicine is not as speculative as there are living witnesses.
“As far as I am concerned, it takes five minutes to cure asthma and this has been proven on several occasions,” he claimed.
He said he has several other medicinal herbs that are not specific to any ailment but can take care of a number of diseases.
“One of which was the one that was being sold publicly at July 22nd Square [McCarthy Square] and of course at Serekunda police station. But of course, it has to stop at a point because I didn’t have a mandate to go beyond that.
“But now, I have the full mandate to treat people publicly under strict conditions…Now, I have a mandate to treat publicly all the diseases or people that are sick in two conditions.
“One, the patient will accept to be treated publicly. In fact, the first and one of the most important conditions, the person must be diagnosed by a medical practitioner or from a medical institution that the person has this particular disease.
“Am not authorized to treat anyone who comes feeling that he has this particular disease to treat. These are two specific diseases. One is asthma and the other is HIV diseases.
“I can tell you with confidence by the grace of Almighty Allah that the treatment is day’s treatment and within three days, you will be tested again and I can assure you that the person will be negative. As opposed to the other one which takes about ten days. So, the issue why I call you is that I have to work with a team of doctors that I can trust. Doctors that would not sabotage my treatment,” he said.
He said he has a proven record of his treatment, saying it was not speculative. “Am not here for money, am not here for popularity, am here to do what I have been assigned to do.”
However, the witness insisted that it had never happened when a patient was cured within three days as stated by Jammeh.