Testimony 41011: Painful Memories of April 10/11 Still Linger
Exactly 19 years today, at least fourteen students and others were gunned down, and many others seriously injured in different parts of the country in what remains one of the darkest incidents in the annals of Gambian history.
On April 10 and 11, 2000, students across the country took to the streets to protest the death of a student in the hands of fire and ambulance services officials and the alleged rape of a young Brikama-ba student. The security forces, particularly the military responded with heavy-handedness, shooting at the protesters resulting to the deaths and injuries.
Nineteen years on, the painful memories of the incident still linger in the minds of the survivors.
“I only remember walking with friends and then later on everything became blurred,” says Yusupha Mbaye who was shot on April 10, 2000 and is now crippled and using wheelchair.
He recalled going to school on the 10th April early in the morning expecting to have an exam as part of second term assessment. “Immediately I reached the school, a colleague informed me about a protest that was going on. I was reluctant to go out but later decided to walk to the street towards the Post Office in Kairaba Avenue and then to Ice Man junction,” Yusupha recalls. “I remember when got the Police Intervention Unit headquarters, but I don’t remember what happened after that. I just woke up and realised I was hospitalized.”
Yusupha was rushed to the hospital after he suffered from severe gun wounds.
“When I recovered from the comma I asked what happened and I was told that I was shot and that my spinal cord was affected. When I tried to raise my hands and legs, it wasn’t possible. I wasn’t able to move. All my limbs and my upper limbs were lifeless.”
Yusupha was a football and volleyball player before that incident. In tears, he explains the impact of the gunshot on his life. “Before the incident, I was an active person because I was a sportsman. During those days I would close from school, eat, sleep till 5pm and go for training. I was a very active person. The trauma is still in me because I can no longer play football because I have a spinal cord problem. It hurts me every day because I now depend on my parents to physically take care of me. I cannot do anything for myself.”
Now 36, Yusupha hopes to pursue his childhood ambition of becoming a lawyer, but he’s put off by his physical pain and the trauma of April 10, 2000. “I see my former classmates around and they are able to take care of themselves. I’m on the wheelchair. My friends are busy working and looking after their families. I’m being looked after. This saddens me.”
What Yusupha now wants is justice. “I want to know who ordered the soldiers to shoot and who actually pulled the trigger.”
Oumie Jagne, now a mother of four, was shot on April 10, 2000 as she tried to protect her sister, a GTTI student who was stripped off near Ice Man in Kanifing. At around 9am that day, Oumie returned home from the market when some students informed her that her little sister was stripped off by the military and was crying.
“I entered the house and picked her clothes to take to her. I started running from around Jeshwang Prisons towards Iceman. As I tried to turn at the Iceman junction towards where she was, I was shot. I tried turning my hand and the soldier told me if you don’t stand I will shoot you. That was when one man of the soldiers came and tied my hands and held it up while I sat down. At this time, an ambulance was stopped and they put me in. I saw my sister screaming.”
Oumie was shot in the arm and the flesh that held the bullet was completely destroyed. Today, that hand is lifeless. “I cannot use it to work because it has internal fixation with metals inside. At least seven screws are inside my arm. I can only move one hand.”
“My husband helps me with everything, including laundering and cooking,” she says.
Oumie is now hoping for justice, and calls on the government to make sure the perpetrators are brought to book.