(JollofNews)- An exiled former leader of the Gambia’s Students’ Union (GAMSU) says he has no regrets for leading a demonstration in April 2000 against the murder and rape of two students by security officials.
On 10th and 11th April 2000, over a dozen students taking part in a country-wide peaceful demonstration organised by GAMSU were killed when security officials opened fired at them.
The government of the Gambia had initially blamed the killings on the students but a commission of inquiry that was set up to look into the cause of the demonstration and the killing of the protesters indicted senior security officials and the then minister of the Interior, Ousman Badjie, for the killings.
Not satisfied, the government rejected the recommendations of the commission and later used its ruling party dominated parliament to pass through a law which indemnified the indicted officials from criminal prosecutions. The law also indemnified the president and all security officials against criminal prosecutions for any actions or force they used to disperse any assembly in the country that is not authorised by the state.
But Omar Joof, who fled the country after he escaped alleged assassination attempts by agents of the regime and members of the defunct 22 July Movement, said while he is saddened at the killing of the protesters, he has not regretted standing up against the murder and rape of his colleagues.
“Although it cannot represent a pride to me in terms of the outrageous result, but the fact that we were able to stand up against murder and rape is satisfying because it was a historic responsibility on our shoulders,” Mr Joof told the Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio.
“If we had not measured up to it I am sure our names would have gone down into the despicable corners of our country’s history.”
He added: “The fact that Gambian students throughout the country rose up in those two days to protest against murder and rape, which are not only frown upon by our values but are completely rejected and dismissed by all our customs and traditions is also a great satisfaction to me and my colleagues.
“It has to be understood that we exhausted all avenues available to us including negotiations and discussions. Credible student leaders don’t just jump into demonstrations just like that. We were left with a situation of either compromising our principles or going out and demonstrate. If I am faced with a similar situation where all avenues are exhausted and we are convinced that we are legally and morally on sound grounds, yes I will do it all over again.”
Mr Joof said 10th and 11th April 2000 have tremendous significance as they represent a horrendous breach of the cultures and values of the Gambia particularly in connection with the sanctity of life of a human being.
“Students in the Gambia throughout the years before 2000 were regarded as the children of government and were also assured protection,” he said.
“Demonstrations were uncommon but students were always protected. So it was a very serious breach of the values and cultures of our people. It definitely represents a red letter day in the history of my people.“10th and 11th April 2000 teaches Gambians about values and the values we have had and enjoyed, to what extent those values have been destroyed and to what extent the peace and stability of our country has been destroyed and the fact the government in the Gambia is not a representative of the wishes and aspirations of Gambians any longer.”