THE STUDENT MASSACRE-Former GAMSU Executive Member Reacts To Horomsi’s revealing piece!
   By A Former GAMSU Executive Member

In the year 2000, I was selected as an executive member of The Gambia Students’ Union. This organization represents all the students in the country, pertaining to students’ welfare. On 1st January 2000, the Union received a complaint from middle school girl, was raped and severely beaten by the national security forces during the school athletic event at the national stadium. The Union investigated the allegation and gathered substantial evidence against the two accused soldiers involved in the rape. The Union President sent letters and visited many government agencies. Despite all these efforts by the union, The Gambia government deliberately turned a blind eye on the issue to downplay the seriousness. More importantly their mere reluctance to bring those responsible to face the ultimate justice was indeed astonishing. On the 12th of February the union received another complaint, this time from the parents of high school student who was maliciously beaten to death by the Fire Service Department without provocation. As usually we converged an emergency meeting of all student leaders to discuss the matter and presented the case to the relevant authorities to investigate the allegation. After three consecutive weeks we made numerous follow ups in various government agencies regarding the two incidents. As the student body, we were deeply committed to the fundamental rights and freedom of our fellow students at all time. We called on the Vice President of The Gambia to discuss the two cases. She promised us that the government is committed to the proper treatment of every citizen and further reassured us that they will invest every state resource in their disposal to investigate the cases and bring those responsible to justice. She assured us that we should soon receive feedback.
                   In this respect, as days and weeks went by, as waited patiently, we heard no response from the Vice President’s office and other necessary government departments about the two fragile cases. The Union leaders decided to call on the national student conference in order to discuss the matter and make decision about the next phase of Union efforts in order to bring perpetrators to justice. After two days of discussion and consultation, the general student body decided to protest. We wrote letters to the Inspector General of Police to inform him about our planes. On the 10th of April, 2000 students all over the country gathered at the Gambia College to march. Immediately before we started the demonstration, soldiers confronted students with deadly weapons. Students’ leaders tried to calm the situation to avert any bloodshed without a success. Five students’ leaders were mercilessly beaten and arrested in front of thousands of students and driven away to an unknown destination. The soldiers then shifted their assault on the students and started firing life ammunition, which ultimately claimed the lives of seven innocent students and injured hundreds of other students. This attack prompted intense chaos and pandemonium as some students fought back with stones and other means. The government immediately issued an emergency order to the security forces to eliminate any students who failed to comply with the so-called laws banning students from engaging in any demonstration. The incidents spread to various parts of the country where tires, cars, stores, houses were burnt down and scores of student were taken into custody. This further fueled anger and dismay about the unprofessional manners of the national security forces, and more importantly the government’s continue reluctance to address students’ welfare and problems. Across the country, the incidents claimed the lives of fifteen students and hundreds were seriously injured and detained. The government went on to allege that the student demonstration was planned clandestinely with some government adversaries. Interestingly, the government issued no apology about the deaths of our fellow students and continued to assert that the security forces were acting in an established order to impose laws and sustain peace in the country. Many of our fellow students were jailed without any proper judiciary protocols.

              This incident could have been well averted if the government promptly addressed those cases involved the students and bring the perpetrators to justice. This would have saved us from more atrocities and enabled the students to have faith in the system of government, especially on matters pertaining to students welfare and

Posted on Monday, March 26, 2007 (Archive on Saturday, March 31, 2007)
Posted by PNMBAI  Contributed by PNMBAI

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