The world received Gambia’s announcement that all its 47 death row prisoners would be executed by September 2012 with shock and condemnation.
The televised announcement in August was President Yahya Jammeh’s present for that year’s Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr. “All those guilty of serious crimes and are condemned will face the full force of the law. All punishments prescribed by law will be maintained in the country to ensure that criminals get what they deserve: that is, that those who kill are killed … By the middle of next month, all the death sentences would have been carried out to the letter,” he said.
When he went ahead and had eight men and one woman executed a few days later, the world was stunned. The killings, coming after a hiatus of more than 30 years, were condemned by the African Union and the European Union. A moratorium on further executions was imposed only when the EU threatened The Gambia with sanctions.
It appears Yahya Jammeh’s capacity to shock knows no bounds as it has now emerged that the execution of the prisoners was far more barbaric than the firing squad his government announced had been used.
A witness who participated in the execution of the Mile 2 Prison inmates told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that the nine were manually suffocated and strangled.
“We departed Mile 2, on our way to the range. When we got to the airport junction after 100 metres, all the vehicles stopped, our vehicle also stopped. I saw Nfansu Nyabally, who was communicating with someone. He got up from his seat and leaned towards the inmate that was seated beside me. He wrapped a plastic bag around the head of the inmate and strangled him,” said Police Inspector Lamin Sambou.
Nfansu Nyabally was a member of the notorious Junglers death squad, Jammeh’s personal killing machine.
In his July 7, 2020 testimony, Sambou listed the Junglers who participated in the massacre as including Momodou Busso, Lamin Bajdjie, Nfansu Nyabally, and Omar Jallow alias Oya. He added that it was dark and he did not recognise the other people, but he was sure that then Interior Minister Ousman Sonko was present. Sonko later issued a statement saying the prisoners were killed by firing squad. Their bodies were never released to their families.
Before 2012, the last execution in The Gambia had taken place in 1981. President Dawda Jawara abolished the death penalty in 1985, but it was reinstated in 1995, shortly after Yaya Jammeh seized power.
In The Gambia, capital punishment can be imposed for murder and treason. Three of the nine people who were executed in 2012 had been convicted of treason.
The government named the inmates who were executed as Tabara Samba, a Senegalese national, Dawda Bojang, Malang Sonko, Lieutenant Lamin F. Jarjou, Staff Sergeant Lamin Jammeh, Lieutenant Alieu Bah, Lamin B.S. Darboe, Buba Yarboe, and Gebe Bah, also a Senegalese.
Here are their profiles.
He was charged with the murder of Ronald Stanley Ford, a British national. He was convicted by the Kanifing Magistrates’ Court on August 29, 2007, and sentenced to life in prison. His appeal was dismissed and the life sentence substituted with death on July 30, 2010.
He was charged with the murder of Buba Jawara, whom he was accused of hitting on the neck with a stick. He was convicted by the Brikama Magistrates’ Court and sentenced to death on January 30, 2012. The convict did not file any appeal.
Ex-Lieutenant Lamin Jarjou
Ex-Lieutenant Alieu Bah
Ex-Staff Sergeant Lamin F. Jammeh
The trio was jointly charged with two counts of treason, two counts of the murder of Lance Corporal Kebba Drammeh and Private Bakary Ceesay, four counts of unlawful wounding with intent to cause grievous harm, two counts of robbery, and two counts of abduction. They were convicted and sentenced to death by a panel of three judges of the High Court of The Gambia on October 27, 1998. Their appeals were dismissed.
She was charged with the murder of Ebrima Nyang, her husband, at Jeshwang. She was alleged to have poured boiling cooking oil on him because he had married a second wife. She was convicted on September 26, 2007, and sentenced to death. The High Court dismissed her appeal.
He was alleged to have killed his mother, Jainaba Jarjou, when he hit her on the head with an iron rod at Busumbala. He was sentenced to death on November 3, 2010. He did not appeal against his sentence and conviction.
Lamin B.S. Darboe
He was charged with the murder of Muhammed Ould Faal, a Mauritanian national, whom he allegedly hit on the head with a blunt object on April 2, 1985, at Sinchu Alagie in the Kombo North District. He was convicted and sentenced to death on December 3, 1986. He appealed against the conviction and sentence on June 13, 1988, but the court dismissed the suit.
He was charged with the murder of Njuga Samba, whom he was accused of stabbing in the head on December 18, 1997, at Mariama Kunda village in Kombo North District, Western Region. He was convicted and sentenced to death on January 30, 2004. His appeal was dismissed.