(JollofNews)- On 15th December 2012, former Bad Boy Rapper G-Dep walked into a Harlem Precinct, turned himself in after confessing to a cold case murder. G-Dep owned up to killing a young man on a botched robbery on 19th October 1993.
Twenty-three summers and winters ago this year, a New Jersey man, Steven Goff, turned himself to the police for the stabbing to death of a teenager in 1990. A body that would be found six months later in December 1991. It was so badly decomposed that the cause of death could not be established.
What do these two scenarios have in common? Two people who have taken innocent lives with no witnesses at the time. The perpetrators could have gone to their graves with the crimes bosomed in their chests but their consciences were never to let them be in peace. They have wronged God, the victims and their family. As a matter of fact, their souls that had lived all those years were being eaten up excruciatingly gradually, that were forced to come plain.
Where are the people who ordered the brutal killing of unarmed Gambian school children? 13 years on, where are those on the ground who pulled the triggers or witnessed it? They cannot possibly be of an undisturbed conscience all these years. Who is going to do the right thing and tell the truth?
Conscience is that one faculty that however dangerous and/or evil a man is, could hardly succeed in cheating. You may attempt drinking, smoking or praying them away but the horrendous wrongs you commit would haunt and torment your conscience till the day you die. Now whether that haunting would push you enough to free your conscience of the burden by confessing may depend on the degree of the wrong. The case of April 10/11 in the Gambia is not any different.
On Monday, 10th April 2000, one after another, students dropped. Some took their last breath in those virgin streets of Kanifing others in ambulances and chaotic rooms of Hospitals and Clinics. The smell of Gambian blood blended with tears of unbelief and despair muddied our clouds. Innocent unarmed students were slain in broad daylight. Within a very close proximity, heartless uniformed men masturbated their weapons discharging live ammunition into crowds of children. Their only crime was peacefully assembling in protest for justice for two of their colleagues; a male student allegedly tortured to death my fire fighters and a 13-year-old girl allegedly raped from a junior school in Brikama-Ba. The sameness in these two cases was school children and men in uniform paid to protect and serve State and People. A Calculated and a very responsible student body, GAMSU, exercising due diligence, had been in consultation with the necessary authorities to have the accused be brought to justice. Realising that the government was stalling on any efforts to do what was right, GAMSU applied for a permit to stage a peaceful congregation to show solidarity with their own. A permit request that the Ministry of the Interior denied. Determined, that peacefully concocted assembly of students in Kanifing (not even Banjul) was to go ahead. The rest was/is a sad history.
14 years on, nobody with a conscience would own up to what happened on that day. From the president to the private soldier or police constable on those Kanifing streets that pulled the trigger. 14 years on, they replay the events of the chaotic moments of seeing our brothers falling down from the bullets that escaped their AK-47s. 14 years on, some or most of them have kissed their children goodbye to school/work and welcome them home daily, knowing that they had robbed other parents the joy of parenthood and denied the country of potential resources.
Meanwhile, Mariam and Muhammed Jammeh are ‘enjoying’ 24-hour days of armed protection as children of the first family. Some of the ministers and top government officials have whisked their children out of the Gambia to study, live and work abroad. What is even more hurtful is that, never have the government in these long, hurtful and agonising years showed remorse. There was never any state candle vigils, no public holidays or national prayer days in honour of the murdered children.
In fact, the last time there was ever any reference to these events from the State after the bogus findings with all blames thrust at the students for being unruly, rebellious and suicidal, was when they indemnified the security officers. I remembered holding onto The Point and Foroyaa newspaper editions detailing the irrational reasoning by the government in not only failing to let justice take its course, but protecting the criminal(s) who ordered the shooting and those who pulled triggers. Indeed shameful.
14 years on, the unchallenged audacity, the preposterous arrogance and machete callousness of an executive to have the head of government continue to say that the children killed themselves is scary. Late last year, the vice president was exonerating herself when she said she was not on the ground, didn’t know what happened but only went on national TV to “say what I had been asked to say”. This was before any investigations could have been done. Well she was the number two and her boss was out of town. A few weeks ago, the president was having audiences with West African Examination Council (WAEC) officials and said because they have chosen to do away with corporal punishment, students grew unruly and indiscipline. So who is standing up for our school children when the government is putting them in the line of fire?
The Gambia government is not one of ample testosterone to assume responsibility of its shortcomings. This government is that 14th century egomaniac African man who sees accepting wrongs or inabilities as a weakness and signs of impotence. That is why they find it easier to always apportion blame – thus the constant firing and recycling of low and high-ranking public servants while the heads of affairs remain eunuchoid.
President Jammeh and his regime cannot be any hypocritical than their dealings with the Gambian students. Much of his regime’s infidelity had been towards the students because he is aware and afraid of the insurmountable capabilities of a learned and educated group. Anti-democratic agents operate that way. So it wasn’t a surprise when they set out for the systematic demise of a vibrant body that clenched its fist in defending their comrades. Venomously they poisoned and annihilated GAMSU by christening NAPSA. The financial inducements and scholarships principally to mute one of the strongest civic bodies into being a closet so bare as a pet cemetery. Our students have been legally prostituted and politicized. Handouts given with the right hand while the left snatched their ostensible innocence. Something, among other things, I’d tried campaigning on when I ran for the University of Gambia Students’ Union presidency in 2002. An election I’d come to lose.
In retrospect, that massacre of the children in school uniform was the virginal try of this administration at testing the Gambian people’s level of tolerance and resolve for it was the first open assault on a non militant or political group with brute force. When nothing came out of that from any quarters, random outrageous acts followed suit. The culmination of the little ‘justs’ that we brushed off, gave birth of the various magnanimous alleged state-sponsored crimes up to Imam Baba Leigh’s abduction.
Sooner than later, however, those enjoying the blanket amnesty with the so-called Indemnity Clause, ought to know that they haven’t eluded the wrath of requisite justice. Not in the sense of witch-hunting, but for fairness and justice for our murdered children that thus far went unpunished. Until that time, we pour our heartfelt spiritual libations for the departed souls as they rest in peace. And for their families to continue garner the strength to carry on as this time of the year snails by yearly.
Continue To Rest In Peace!