The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has this week moved from its bases in Kotu to the community of Jambur in Kombo South district. The objective is to hold regional hearings on the theme of dictator Jammeh’s 2009 witch-hunting exercise in which scores of Gambians were allegedly killed as a result.
In 2009, dozens of residents of Jambur among other communities within The Gambia judged to be witches and wizards, were rounded up in their various communities and paraded at village squares on the orders of the former President. The witch doctors forced victims to drink concoctions that caused hallucinations, dizziness, illness and the eventual death of others. Ten years on, this is the first time victims of this despicable incident are given a chance to explain their ordeals in the hands of so-called witch doctors.
Against this backdrop, local authorities and residents who spoke to The Chronicle described the 2009 witch-hunting process as politically motivated. They told this reporter that the witch-hunting incident left many families humiliated, depressed and stigmatized.
“I was at work in Giboro when I got a tip-off that there were some strange people at the village who came with soldiers and the Green-Boys to identify witches and wizards. It was very shocking news to me at first, I wanted to come back immediate but I got advice from a friend who asked me not to do so. I stayed away for two days before I could come to the village because of fear,” said Haruna Bojang, Alkalo of Jambur.
According to him, the so-called witch-hunting was politically driven and has led to differences and misunderstandings among the people of Jambur, noting that the witch-hunting violations occupy the darkest chapter in the history of Jambur and will remain so for many more years to come.
Bojang told The Chronicle that the forceful drinking of concoctions by victims resulted in illnesses and deaths, disclosing that many families in Jambur are still left depressed, humiliated and stigmatized as a result of the witch-hunting.
“What happened has happened and I think this is a lesson for all Gambians especially for us in authority. I think what is important now is to move on and bury the past by forgiving each other because we are one people who do everything together in this community even though it was very shocking to go through such an experience,” Jambur Alkalo told The Chronicle.
Ebrima Camara, Chairman Village Development Committee (VDC) explained that there is nothing more humiliating than pointing at innocent people and judging them as witches and wizards, disclosing that the witch-hunting violation is one of the worst form of human rights violation orchestrated by the regime of Yahya Jammeh against Gambians.
“Imagine people were dragged from their compounds in front of their families and siblings and paraded at the village square on the false pretext that they are witches and wizards. The awful experience is still shocking and humiliating to the victims and their families and it will take many years before these wounds can be healed”, VDC Chairman told The Chronicle.
According to him, the experience of the victims in the hands of Yahya Jammeh and his thugs were so devastating and hard to absorb by the people of Jambur, adding that this was the least expected from a sitting head of state whose responsibility is to protect lives and properties.
“My family is still traumatized by the events of that fateful day, the stigma is lingering with us especially that some people still regard our loved ones as witches and wizards. There is nothing more painful than people pointing at your parents and calling them witch or wizard,” said Fatou Fatty, a daughter to one of the victims.
She called for government intervention to address the root cause of the problem, while calling for the prosecution of Yahya Jammeh and his team of witch-hunters.