- Gambia’s former president has been implicated in the murders of Ghanaian and Nigerian migrants
- The migrants, who were bound for Europe, were murdered in the Gambia in 2005
- A report by Human Rights Watch stated that contrary to the earlier claim that the migrants were killed by rogues, the migrants were murdered by Yahya Jammeh’s mercenaries
Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International reportedly stated on Wednesday, May 16, that a paramilitary unit controlled by ex-Gambian president Yahya Jammeh summarily executed more than 50 Ghanaian, Nigerian, and other West African migrants in July 2005.
Human Rights Watch reports that interviews with 30 former Gambian officials, including 11 officers directly involved in the incident, reveal that the migrants, who were bound for Europe but were suspected of being mercenaries intent on overthrowing Jammeh, were murdered after having been detained by Jammeh’s closest deputies in the army, navy, and police forces.
Legit.ng gathered that the witnesses identified the “Junglers,” a notorious unit that took its orders directly from Jammeh, as those who carried out the killings.
“The West African migrants weren’t murdered by rogue elements, but by a paramilitary death squad taking orders from President Jammeh,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch.
“Jammeh’s subordinates then destroyed key evidence to prevent international investigators from learning the truth.”
Martin Kyere, the sole known Ghanaian survivor; the families of the disappeared; the family of Saul N’dow, another Ghanaian killed under Jammeh; and Ghanaian human rights organizations on Tuesday, May 16, 2018, called on the Ghanaian government to investigate the new evidence and potentially seek Jammeh’s extradition and prosecution in Ghana.
Jammeh’s 22-year rule was marked by widespread abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention.
He sought exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017 after losing the December 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow.
TRIAL International and Human Rights Watch said it interviewed insiders including some of the highest-ranking security commanders in the Gambian government at the time, as well as several officials present at the arrest, detention, and transfer of the migrants, a Jungler who witnessed the killings, and two who participated in a subsequent cover-up.
They said that the migrants, including some 44 Ghanaians and several Nigerians, were arrested in July 2005 at a beach where they had landed, then transferred to the Gambian Naval Headquarters in Banjul, the capital.
They were detained there in the presence of the inspector general of police, the director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the chief of the defense staff, and the commander of the National Guards.
At least two of them were reportedly in telephone contact with Jammeh during the operation. The head and several members of the paramilitary Junglers were also allegedly there.
The officials reportedly divided the migrants into groups and then turned them over to the Junglers. Over one week, the Junglers allegedly summarily executed them near Banjul and along the Senegal-Gambia border near Jammeh’s hometown of Kanilai.
Kyere was said to have been detained in a Banjul police station, then driven into the forest.
In February 2018, he explained to Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International how he escaped, just before other migrants were killed.
“We were in the back of a pickup truck,” he said.
“One man complained that the wires binding us were too tight and a soldier with a cutlass sliced him on the shoulder, cutting his arm, which bled profusely. It was then that I thought, ‘We’re going to die.’ But as the truck went deeper into the forest, I was able to get my hands free. I jumped out from the pickup and started to run into the forest. The soldiers shot toward me but I was able to hide. I then heard shots from the pickup and the cry, in Twi [Ghanaian language], ‘God save us!’”
Kyere helped the Ghanaian authorities identify many of the dead and travelled around Ghana to locate their families and promote efforts to seek justice.
Despite reported measures by Ghana as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations (UN) to investigate the case, Human Rights Watch said no arrests have ever been made.
The Bulletin of the UN Department of Public Affairs reportedly said that an ECOWAS/UN report concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the deaths and disappearances but rather that “rogue elements” in Gambia’s security services “acting on their own” were probably responsible.
However, Human Rights Watch said the new evidence makes clear that those responsible for the killings were the Junglers, who were not rogue elements, but a disciplined unit operating under Jammeh.
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Legit.ng previously reported that Gambia’s minister of Justice, Abubacarr Tambadou, said Yahya Jammeh, while leaving the Gambia in the heat of his electoral defeat, left with about $50 million.
The current government in the country accused Yahya Jammeh of withdrawing the money through a state telecoms company.
As a result, a court in the country ordered that all his assets remaining in the Gambia be frozen.
These include 88 accounts and 14 companies linked to him. Cattle and cars are also part of the assets.
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