19 years ago, 14 students were murdered in cold blood in the Gambia.
April 10th and 11th of 2000 became one of the darkest days in the history of the smiling coast when students in the Gambia took to the street to protest the raping of a female student and the killing of another male student.
The female student was raped at the independent stadium by elements within the Gambian security force.
Another student in Brikama West Coast Region known as Ebrima Barry was tortured to death by firefighters on the orders of the principal of Barry’s school.
The firefighters stripped him naked, shaved his head, beat him, forced him to carry heavy bags of cement, poured cement on him and finally put cement in his mouth and forced him to swallow it.
He got home that night but died the next day from his injuries.
Gambian students decided to hold a protest march on 10 April 2000 with thousands converging outside the Gambia Technical Training Institute as headed for the Banjul city centre.
They were stopped by police officers, who ordered them to disperse but when they refused the police opened fire on them.
Killed by police officers
16 people were killed, 14 of whom were students. Yusupha Mbye was among the students who survived the shooting incident.
He was shot at the back resulting a damage to his spinal cord only at the age of 17 years.
According to Mbye who is now 36 years, he heard the news of the student strike in the morning of April 10 when he went to School.
His friends told him they were going to conduct a peaceful protest over the two incidents.
Mbye told Africa Feeds that “Me and my colleagues marched to post office at Kairaba Avenue and we later proceed to West field Jacaranda and later to iceman around the Police Intervention Unit and we met the Army commander Babucarr Jatta.
He was having negotiation with Gambia Students’ Union (GAMSU) on the issues on the unfortunate incident which occurred to our colleagues but after that I saw myself at the hospital.”
Yusupha Mbye narrated that he was told by doctors that we was shot at the back which led to him been hospitalized. He was in coma for more than a week before waking up.
“I saw myself at the hospital bed and my body could not move and I asked the doctor why am I here? And he told me that I was shot during the student protest and I couldn’t believe it because I told him I haven’t done anything to be shot, I slept again and later woke up and saw my family members and I asked my family the same question but they narrated the same story that the doctor told me earlier on,” Mbye said.
Mbye had to be operated on in order for doctors to be able to remove the bullet from his beck.
“The bullet pass through the spine and it moved through the neck due to heavy breathing. After the operation I could not talk and I thought I was going to die even if I talk no one could hear unless they come near to understand what am saying,” Mbye said.
“My life changed completely because as a student at grade 10 I had hope of becoming a Lawyer when I finish school. I was studying Arts and wanted to become a lawyer but seeing yours self at the hospital is very difficult,’’ he lamented.
As a young boy Yusupha’s dream was shattered after this shooting incident. He is unable to grow into the kind of adult he dreamt of and take care of his family.
Mbye now depends on his family for everything instead helping them.
He doesn’t know when justice shall will prevail.
Life under Yahya Jammeh
During Yaya Jammeh’s era as president of the Gambia, Yusupha Mbye had to flee the Gambia to Senegal with his cousin after constant threats from the government. He spent four (4) years in Senegal for personal safety.
In 2017 when a new government was ushered in he became optimistic for the future.
He had the chance to meet current president Adama Barrow before he was sworn in as president officially in Dakar Senegal.
President Barrow had promised that there would be compensation for survivors of the massacre but that is yet to happen. No treatment or assistance for victims yet.
Mbye told Africa Feeds that the Turkish government promised to give free medical treatment for the eight survivors of April 10/11 2000 students massacre but the government couldn’t provide air tickets for all of them.
Only 4 tickets were available for the trip and that frustrates Mbye.
Yusupha Mbye and other survivors of the April 10/11 incident are still looking up to the Gambia government for help to secure them a medical treatment abroad.
“During our first commemorations of April 10/11 after the Jammeh dictatorship we petitioned the government demanding among other things that the perpetrators of the April 10/11 2000 massacre be brought to justice.
We also demanded that the government accepts liability for the events of April 10/11 2000 and provide compensation for the victims and families. To this day the government has not responded to our petition,” Mbye said.
Use Jammeh’s money
Mbye is asking the Gambian government to use part of the money from the confiscated assets of Yahya Jammeh to compensate survivors of atrocities committed under him.
“I expected this government to use the money confiscated from Yahya Jammeh to take care of the victims of Jammeh atrocities. I suffered severe injuries as a result of the illegal actions of Gambian security forces, acting on the orders of their political masters,” he said.
Yahyah Jammeh has been accused of several atrocities including cases of rape, killings and human rights abuses.
A Truth Reconciliation Commission is hearing witnesses of such atrocities hoping to document them and recommend what must be done to victims and perpetrators of crimes under Jammeh.
“Equally obvious, Yaya Jammeh is not immune from prosecution for the rape of young children and other crimes he committed against the Gambian people, such as giving orders for the massacre of innocent school children on April 10/11, 2000.
As soon as this government took over power, I advocated for them to seek a parliamentary resolution removing Jammeh’s immunity from prosecution. That is how we ensure accountability in our society. It is not enough to just narrate the criminal behavior of Jammeh and his cohorts,” Mbye said.