Friday, August 28, 2015

Are "pardoned" prisoners being ritually executed by Jammeh ?

The notorious Mile II prison, one of the ten worst in the world
When Yaya Jammeh, the idiosyncratic Gambian dictator suddenly announced the "pardoning" of two hundred and twenty-nine prisoner, we cautioned against, what we considered to be premature, in the showering of praise to a regime that has proven, in its 21-year brutal history, to be as deceitful and unreliable as dictators come.

The "pardoned" prisoner figures have varied from two hundred and twenty-nine which was the initial announced figure, to"three hundred and something" by both Jammeh's Foreign Minister and his Vice President.  The fact that the regime refuses, to date, to release an official list of all those "pardoned" prisoners is reason to question the motive behind the regime's stonewalling.

With time, a pattern has begun to emerge since the "pardoned" prisoner release.  Families of prisoners who have meet all of the criteria are beginning to step out of the shadows to ask the whereabouts of their loved ones who were supposed to have been released according to family members.

Two weeks ago, the family of Seedy Jaiteh went to the offices of Foroyaa newspaper to ask about the whereabouts of their loved one.  Seedy Jaiteh was the Human Resource Director of GAMTEL, the government telecommunication company, who was arrested from his office over 400 days ago, according to the newspaper's account.  His whereabouts remain unknown to this day, even though he's eligible for release or, at least, to be charged and taken to court.  The regime is silent to this day about Mr. Jaiteh who is reported to have been arrested because he's a Mandinka tribe whose members have been accused of destroying GAMTEL even though since seizing power, Jammeh has only appointed members of other tribes to run the company.

This week, a former soldier named Samba Bah, who was among the prisoners "pardoned" died at the Royal Victoria Hospital.  He had complained of leg pain.  He was in leg irons for the nine years he had been incarcerated accused of being part of the 2006 coup attempt.  His death is a sign of things to come for those known "pardoned" prisoners.  Released prisoners on public display at the town square for the purpose of expressing gratitude to the Dear Leader and Savior of the Gambian People appear weak and unhealthy.  More will die of diseases contracted or injuries inflicted while at Mile II.  It is just a matter of time.

Also this week, Foroyaa is reporting that the family of a mentally challenged prisoner named Ambu Drammeh, was arrested and rearrested numerous times before his case was referred to the psychiatric hospital.  Despite his metal condition, Mr. Drammeh was arrested from the village where he was being treated in the local tradition and taken to Mile II.  The family of Mr. Drammeh was highly optimistic and confident when they learned of the prisoner release program that their loved one would be among those release.  His whereabouts, like Seedy Jaiteh's, remain unknown.  We asked in the case of Seedy Jaiteh: How many Seedy Jaitehs are there.  We will repeat the same in the case of Ambu Drammeh : How many Ambu Drammehs are there.

Every life is precious and thus we must, as a civilized society, place the ultimate premium on it.  In the name of human decency,  we demand a complete and exhaustive list of all "pardoned" prisoners with their full personal details so that every life is accounted for.  Anything less will only cast more suspicion on a regime whose credibility is already among the lowest of any government anywhere on earth.