April 10 Student Demo – Still Waiting for Justice – D.A.Jawo - Daily News - Monday, April 11, 2011

Today (April 10) is the 11th anniversary of the student demonstration of April 2000 which was violently suppressed by Gambian security forces, leaving more than 14 young students killed by bullets and several others injured, some maimed for the rest of their lives. The only crime that those innocent young children committed was insisting on staging a peaceful demonstration in order to protest against certain grievances, including the alleged killing of one of their colleagues by the fire brigade personnel in Brikama.

Even though it is now more than a decade since that most dreadful event in the history of The Gambia, and yet it seems as if it happened yesterday as it is still fresh in the minds of most Gambians, especially those who lost their loved ones.

Certainly, the memories of those little souls who were brutally shot and killed in cold blood for merely coming out to exercise their most fundamental rights to peacefully match and show their grievances, will never fade away from the hearts and minds of those who care about humanity and the injustice that was meted out to those innocent children.

Therefore, the only way that such naked injustice against the innocent children of this country can be mitigated is for those who perpetrated the crime to be brought to justice and punished for their crime, which this regime does not appear to ever intend to do.

We can all vividly recall the morning of 10 April 2000 when students in the Greater Banjul Area, under the leadership of the Gambia Students Union (GAMSU) decided to stage a peaceful demonstration against a host of grievances, including the alleged killing of their colleague, Ebrima Barry by officials of the Brikama Fire Brigade as well as the alleged raping of a girl student by a member of the security forces. Despite giving enough notice to the authorities about their intention to hold a peaceful procession to vent out their grievances, the security forces and their masters apparently ordered the security forces to prevent the march at whatever cost, including the use of live bullets, which eventually led to the deaths of the 14 young people and maiming for life of several others.

Apart from the widespread condemnation of the unprovoked shooting to death of the innocent students in the Greater Banjul Area on the 10th April, the security forces went ahead to repeat that same brutality the following day in Brikamaba and other parts of the country, shooting to death several more children. It is even alleged that some of those who escaped death were subjected to untold brutality in the hands of the security forces, resulting in some of them being maimed for the rest of their lives.

However, despite the unanimity of the national and international condemnation of the brutality unleashed on the defenceless Gambian children by the security forces, resulting in the deaths of many and the maiming of some, the Gambian authorities have since been trying to wipe out that memory from the minds of the people of The Gambia. Not only any commemoration of the event is totally forbidden, but the government has also done virtually nothing to assist the families who lost their loved ones or those children who were maimed. They are instead abandoned to their fate and their families are left with no choice but to continue to take care of them with their meagre resources, and with no input from those who gave orders to the security forces to open fire with live bullets, and then went on the public media to tell lies about it.

Therefore, instead of ensuring that justice was done in order to ameliorate the suffering of the affected families, the government decided to instead indemnify all those who were found culpable of unleashing such violence on innocent Gambian children. That was indeed enough indication that this government not only did not have any remorse about what happened, but that they would not hesitate to do it all over again against anyone who challenges their hegemony.

The government did not only stop at indemnifying the perpetrators of the unprecedented violence against the children, but they also went ahead to launch a systematic programme to annihilate GAMSU by creating their own surrogate student body, the National Patriotic Students Association (NAPSA), using money and other incentives, and even coercion to entice students to become members of that puppet body, eventually making it the only legal student body in the country, enjoying unlimited financial and moral support from the authorities. 

Therefore, through various overt and covert tactics, the authorities succeeded in transforming NAPSA into a formidable student union whose members were given all kinds of privileges and used as proxies to control the activities of the students and ensure that the students not only will never again challenge the authority of the government, but they were instead left with no alternative but to submit to the dictates of the NAPSA leadership who had been imposed by the authorities. 

What have we seen; the original leadership of NAPSA being absorbed into privileged positions in the government, including some of them being nominated as Members of Parliament and several other prominent positions in the public services. This is apparently as payment for their role in making the students not only forget the brutalities that were meted out to their colleagues a few years ago, but also helping to neutralize GAMSU and all other student bodies that existed before.

There is however no doubt that most concerned Gambians are looking forward to a day when the names of all those innocent young children whose lives were cut short by bullets of our own security forces, will be engraved in gold in a fitting memorial to be erected in a prominent place in the Greater Banjul Area.



Author: By D. A. Jawo