By: Fabakary B. Ceesay
Not eight, but as many as 17 innocent migrants were killed on the faithful night of 22-23 July 2005 in Brufut on the outskirts of Banjul. According to our source, who was present on the crime scene on 23 July 2005, Police officers had been ordered to dispose of all the bodies. They started digging close to a baobab tree adjacent to the main road. But when day broke, they had only buried nine victims. The disfigured bodies of their eight companions were found in the early hours of the day by villagers who immediately alerted the authorities.
“Working on this case, I always wondered why the bodies had been left in the bushes. You would expect that a regime brutally killing foreign nationals would want to hide its crime. It made no sense,” said Marion Volkmann-Brandau who was part of the Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International investigation team which released a comprehensive report about the case in May 2018. “The new information adds an important piece of the puzzle. It seems that in fact, they did not intend for the bodies to be discovered. They simply did not manage to bury all of them quickly enough,” Marion Volkmann- Brandau said in an interview with Trumpet.
Yahya Jammeh must have bitterly regretted that not all the bodies were buried that night. In the following days, the gruesome discovery of these bodies made the headlines in Gambia and Ghana. These migrants were in fact part of a larger group of around 56 West-African nationals, including some 44 Ghanaians, who were bound for Europe but ended-up being arrested on 22 July 2005 in Barra, a town facing Banjul on the opposite shore of the River Gambia. It is believed that Jammeh and his accomplices decided to kill the rest of the group few days after the Brufut massacre, as a cover-up. Jammeh’s hit squad, the Junglers, executed the migrants, which included two women, In Jammeh’s home region and dumped their bodies in an abandoned well. But they failed again to ensure total secrecy of their crime, as one migrant, Martin Kyere, managed to escape and told his story to Ghanaian investigators.
The case then gained international attention and in 2008, a joint United Nations and ECOWAS Commission of inquiry was set up. It concluded that the Gambian government was not “directly or indirectly complicit” in the killings, was however refuted by Human Rights Watch, TRIAL International, Gambian and Ghanaian groups have urged the prosecution of Yahya Jammeh in Ghana.
In 2009, Gambian authorities returned six bodies to Ghana. However, many, including Martin Kyere, and the Ghana-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, have expressed doubts that the bodies were of the murdered Ghanaians.
“This comes at a crucial time for several reasons: The TRRC, (Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission) is about to investigate the case. And, if nine bodies were indeed buried in Brufut, this also means that nine families may finally find the remains of their loved ones,” concluded Marion Volkmann-Brandau.