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The Gambia - Victims & Resisters

Jason Florio | Gambia

Amie, daughter of Lieutenant Ebou Lowe, photographed in her father’s room which has been left unchanged since he was disappeared in 2006 - “I grew up not knowing the love of a father. I was only three years old when he disappeared, so I don’t remember him. I only know him through what people have told me, that he was a good man, and some say he was a hero.” Lieutenant Ebou Lowe was disappeared and executed by members of the former Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh’s hit squad, after he was accused of being part of a coup attempt in 2006 to overthrow the dictatorial Jammeh regime.

The Gambia, West Africa is a popular winter-sun holiday destination for Europeans, but most tourists have little idea of the dark and shattered underbelly of 'The Smiling Coast of Africa', as the Gambia is fondly called. From 1994 -2017 President Yahya Jammeh ruled the Gambia, as his own fiefdom, crushing dissent, and opposition, with brutality. His personal hit squad, National Intelligence Agency and security personnel carried out tortures, assassinations, and acts of sexual violence with impunity - journalists were gunned down and disappeared, students shot in cold blood, and even his own cousins were murdered on his order. The portraits and collected testimonies are part of an ongoing body of work to tell the stories of the victims and resisters. The work aims to expose the wide-reaching forms and scale of human rights abuses under the Jammeh's regime - to create a historical archive and as a tool for advocacy.

Interviews and captions: Helen Jones-Florio

Having worked and lived on an off in the Gambia since 1998 I was well aware of the Jammeh regimes control over society through fear, intimidation and human rights violations, but it was not until Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 election did the true scope of the abuses started to come to light. Before Jammeh left power I met secretly with Gambian dissidents who were in hiding across the border in Senegal and started to record their stories. A few months later, after Jammeh fled into exile in January 2017, I was able to start the in-depth documentation of the victims back in the Gambia who were now able to speak freely. I am now collaborating closely with the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, and the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Many die-hard Jammeh supporters  are still in denial of the litany of crimes, he and his cadre are now being accused of - so a permanent and mobile exhibition of the portraits and testimonies has now become part of Victims Centre and TRRC outreach work around the country to bring the stories of victims to the people to create dialogue and discussion around human rights and justice in this fledgeling democracy - in hopes of opening eyes and  winning hearts and minds.

Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations, ANEKED, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, 

email: florio@floriophoto.com

mobile / WhatsApp +356 99358 463

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