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TRRC overview of attack on road users during the 22-year nightmare

Mar 21, 2022, 11:46 AM | Article By: Ali Jaw

Some of the mass atrocities confirmed by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to have been committed by the APRC government led by former President Yahya Jammeh included attacks on road users.

"Between July 1994 and January 2017, the presidential convoy, travelled with a display of force and power. Shortly after the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) ousted the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government, Gambians started seeing junta members travelling in convoys with heavily armed soldiers. The display of heavy weapons was a deliberate attempt to show the Gambian people that this was a military regime and by implication, the conventional rules did not apply," the TRRC report outlines.

"As well as being heavily armed, the convoy travelled at an alarming speed without much regard to the road users who may accidentally or otherwise find themselves in the convoy’s way. Consequently, pedestrians, motorists, bystanders, and other road users who came into the convoy’s way got hit, beaten, or even shot. This led to many injuries and even loss of lives. Some victims became permanently disabled. All these road accidents and related incidences derived from the recklessness and or the incredible speed at which the convoy travelled even within highly populated areas."

"In all the accidents causing death, or serious injuries, the convoy drivers who caused the said accidents and incidents were never investigated, prosecuted or held accountable for their actions. There was never an inquiry into how and why many people were killed by the convoys and how the situation could be averted or remedied. Where there was an investigation the culpability of the state employees/convoy personnel was never called into question."

"The military junta took over the country in the July 22 1994 coup d’etat with the message that they were soldiers with a difference and would bring prosperity and development to Gambians. However, soon after they consolidated power, they began to exert excessive force against the people they promised to protect. The Vice Chairman of the military Junta, then Lt. Sanna B. Sabally, drove in a convoy with heavily armed personnel who exercised dominance on the road and demanded that road users give way whenever his convoy was passing. Individuals who failed to do so were brutally dealt with by his bodyguards."

The report further details that "over the years, Yahya Jammeh’s convoy also became even more dangerous. The presidential convoy included heavy vehicles which traveled at top speeds, with military escorts equipped with high-grade weapons. During Presidential tours, Ex-President Jammeh would throw biscuits and/or T-shirts to the crowd while the convoy is moving causing stampede as people push and shove each other for the biscuits/T-shirts, leading to many accidents involving children."

"In many cases, road users were beaten for merely failing to stand up in acknowledgment of the President’s convoy. Soldiers in the convoy also shot vehicles they perceived as obstructing the road or failing to get off the road quickly enough when the Presidential convoy was passing. As a result, several civilians, young and old, lost their lives and those that survived were abandoned, with no assistance from the state or the President."

"In most of these cases, neither the victims nor their families received compensation from the President. None of the convoy drivers were held accountable or punished for their misconduct. As a result of this impunity, members of the Presidential convoy became brazen and emboldened to drive with total disregard for the lives and wellbeing of road users. In essence, the large entourage, a big fleet of vehicles and heavy weapons were a show of force and strength which were all calculated to intimidate and further instill fear in Gambians.”

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