Bintu Tunkara never had a chance to know her father. Her mother was expecting her when the dreaded Junglers killed him in 2005.
Even when she was a little girl, Bintu, now a 15-year-old Grade Seven pupil, knew that Yahya Jammeh had killed her father.
In 2005, life was looking good for Lamin Tunkara. His wife was expecting a baby and he was anticipating to be well paid after completing his latest job.
Lamin, a travel agent who helped migrants passing through The Gambia on their way to Europe, told his wife, Adama Conteh, that he was supposed to meet some travellers. Usually, when his clients came to The Gambia, they called him. He would meet them and make the necessary arrangements. He worked with the captains of the vessels that transported the migrants.
But that July day was different. He did not come back home until late in the evening.
“My husband returned home with security agents in plain clothes. They handcuffed him and ransacked our house. They took him to Banjul police station and later transferred him to Kairaba. The day he was supposed to be bailed out was the last day we saw him,” said Adama in her house in Bakoteh.
“I searched for him in several police stations. I was told he had been transferred to another police station, but nobody could tell me where exactly.”
Adama was frustrated and worried. “I was traumatised and depressed. I was seven months pregnant. I could not eat.”
She could not find her husband and for years, she had no idea what had happened to him. She just knew he was taken away by police and seemed to have vanished from their custody.
It was only years later that she learned that he was among the foreigners killed my security agents.
Lamin Tunkara must have got into trouble because as a travel agent, he had gone to meet his clients, the migrants.
It appears he was one of the many victims of Yahya Jammeh’s paranoid fear of losing power. Sources said there had been rumours in the security circles that foreign mercenaries had been sent to try to topple the president. The migrants, who were said to have set off from Saly Mbour in Senegal in a hired motorised canoe, were unlucky to have missed their boat when they arrived at Barra, a town facing Banjul on the opposite shore of the River Gambia, on July 22. That day Jammeh was celebrating the anniversary of the coup in 1994 that had brought him to power. The migrants – 44 Ghanaians, 10 Nigerians, two Ivoirians, two Senegalese, and one Togolese – found armed Gambian security agents waiting for them when they disembarked.
Reports that human rights organisations managed to piece together more than 10 years later indicated that the foreigners were arrested and taken to different police stations. Over the next 10 days, almost all the migrants and Lamin Tunkara were killed in The Gambia or across the border in Senegal. Their bodies were dumped in wells. Martin Kyere, a Ghanaian, was the sole known survivor.
The reports were later confirmed during the hearings of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). In July 2019, three former members of the Junglers death squad testified before the commission that they and 12 other colleagues had carried out the killings on Jammeh’s orders.
“All we want is for the truth to prevail. Let the perpetrators come forward and testify and tell us their reasons for committing these heinous crimes. It is through TRRC that I learned how my husband was killed. When the witnesses described how the 44 Ghanaians were killed, that is when I knew how my husband was killed, because he was the only Gambian among them,” said Adama Conteh.