By Yankuba Jallow
A victim of April 2000 mass students’ demonstration has on Monday called on President Adama Barrow to fulfil the promises that he made to them.
Shot at age 17, Yusupha Mbye said President Barrow promised victims that he was going to airlift them to undergo overseas treatment. The 36 – year – old said since Barrow took over from Jammeh in 2016, they have tried in many ways to meet the President as victims, but their efforts have never proved successful.
“The Gambia government must take up their responsibility. They should fulfil their responsibility. We do not have any time to wait,” he said.
He said if the government fails to take up its responsibility to provide them with medical support until the commemoration of the next April 2000 students’ demonstration, there wouldn’t be any commemoration but they will rather march to the State House.
“He (President Barrow) will just see us at the State House gate. He can do as his predecessor did to order his security to shoot at us, but cannot discourage us. We are useless right now and we need support,” he said.
He asked the TRRC about their position in providing them with medical support.
He said the Minister of Justice, Ba Tambadou has troubled the April 2000 victims because they should not have come to the TRRC, instead Government should have used the Commission of Inquiry’s report on April 10 and 11 demonstrations which made recommendation for the prosecution of perpetrators.
“Why doesn’t he (Minister Tambadou) do that? We have petitioned the Gambia government which we submitted to his office but he never replied or does anything about it,” Mbye said, adding “We cannot leave Yahya Jammeh to go free. Whether the government considers us or not, we are ready to take things on our own.”
He supposed that the money recovered by the Janneh Commission is meant for the victims and nothing from it should be used for anything else apart from the benefit of the victims.
Mbye said the gunshot wound he sustained during April 10 has severely changed his life because his desire was to complete his schooling and help his family. He said he cannot do anything for himself because he depends on people for everything he needs or does. He added he always suffers from frequent illness.
“I am need of other treatment because all the treatments I underwent through weren’t completed. I need rehabilitation the most,” he said, adding that he wants to do away with the urine bag that is fixed on him.
About the Incident
Mbye said on 10th April, he went to school without knowing about any planned demonstration by the students. He added he came to know about the protest at a cafeteria in the vicinity of the school while he was taking his breakfast. He said he was in grade 10 at Pipeline Comprehensive School at 17 years old.
He said the students weren’t armed during the protest and they were doing their procession peacefully.
He said he joined the students’ crowd and they took the street walking along Kairaba Avenue but met students from other schools around Africell junction. He averred that while at the junction, personnel of the police intervention unit who were dressed in anti-riot gears came and wanted to disperse them.
“When they came there, they (the police) wanted us to disperse. They wanted to disperse us but we stood where we were and they released tear gas and we all dispersed,” he said.
He said after they were dispersed, they decided to proceed to Westfield to know what was happening there. He said when they arrived at the Gampost Office along Kairaba Avenue; they met students looting but were dispersed by the paramilitary using tear gas. He said the students were also stoning the security personnel who chased them until they reached Westfield.
“When we got to Westfield, there were students who were stoning the paramilitary,” he said.
He said while standing at Westfield around Maroun’s Supermarket, the then chief of defence staff, Baboucarr Jatta came with a crowd of students and they were heading towards PIU headquarters. He indicated that students were demanding for CDS Jatta to go and negotiate with the paramilitary to find out what happened to the two students that were shot.
“The boys were angry. There were some insulting CDS Jatta and some were throwing stones,” he said, adding that Jatta was surrounded in the crowd with only his one guard but there were students who held their hands together to prevent their colleagues from reaching the army chief.
He said at the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) headquarters, CDS Jatta was left to go and negotiate while they wait but “during the negotiation, Baboucarr Jatta disappeared and he was nowhere to be seen,” the witness said, adding “the officers began shooting us.”
“When they started shooting, I was shot and I woke up at the hospital days later. I was shot at my back close to my neck,” he said.
He adduced that he was in coma for days before regaining consciousness.
“Paramilitary personnel shot us,” he said.
He explained that he was told by a nurse that he was placed at the mortuary thinking that he was dead but when they saw his movement, he was removed from the midst of the corpses and transferred to the Intensive Care Unit.
He said the bullet was removed from his throat at the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) during an operation, adding that it spoiled his nerves and spinal cord.
“I am paralyzed from the neck going down,” he said.
He said an internal feeding tube was fixed to enable him eat because he could not eat solid food. He said at the Intensive Care Unit, he was with Assan Suwareh, Fra and a child who was shot on the head. He said he does not know whether the child was a boy or girl, but the child was always crying.
He said the nurses especially those who were on night duties weren’t helpful to him because they neglected him.
“I used to call the nurses, but I wouldn’t see them,” he said.
He said they were visited by ex-President Yahya Jammeh. He added that Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay used to bring corn flakes, milk and one hundred dalasis for them.
He said in the same year, he was taken to a hospital in Cairo (Egypt) for overseas treatment under the escort of Dr. Muhammed Nawala. He said his body was scanned and later they operated him, adding that the operation went successful. He said he underwent rehabilitation and physiotherapy process until his hands began moving. He said he spent 4 months in Egypt but during their stay, they faced financial constraints because his money was finished.
“The Gambia Government did not pay adequately and when the money was exhausted, the doctor wrote to the government informing them about the situation but the government did not do anything about it,” he said.
He said the doctor who was treating them paid the outstanding bills including rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
“The treatment was not completed and that was how I returned to The Gambia,” he said, adding that they came alone without any escort. He described his journey back to the Gambia as a very difficult one. He said there were attempts to discharge him by the RVH but his father refused because his condition was delicate.
He said when he came back from Egypt; the government took him to Scotland for further treatment under the escort of Tumani Bojang. He said his escort left him at the hospital and he never saw him until today. He said he was not treated because the government of The Gambia owed the hospital and his money was used to repay the debt.
“They only tested my blood. I was put on a bus and they drove me to London in a 12 hours journey despite my condition,” he said, adding “I came back to The Gambia hurt.”
“I spent three years at the Royal Victoria Hospital from 2000 to 2003,” he said.
“In my entire stay at the Royal Victoria Hospital, none of the nurses has ever taken care of me in terms of helping me take my shower, they did not give me food and they did nothing for me,” he said.
He said there was a day when one of the nurses told him that there was an executive order that they should stop treating him because it was a political case. He indicated that he was abandoned and his father requested for the hospital to discharge him but the hospital said they did not admit him. He said DUGA facilitated his treatment in Dakar in 2014 and 2015.