Lack of cash and computers frustrates Gambians' hunt for justice

Thu Apr 20, 2017 7:22am GMT

By Edward McAllister and Lamin Jahateh

BANJUL (Reuters) - After police arrested 57-year-old Gambian activist Solo Sandeng at a protest a year ago, witnesses said he was beaten to death and buried in an unmarked grave near a fishing village.

Since then a new government has come to power, promising swift redress for alleged crimes committed during the 22-year rule of ex-president Yahya Jammeh, and nine intelligence officers are now on trial for the murder.

Yet hope for justice is already giving way to frustration for Sandeng's family, as well as for relatives of the many other Gambians who disappeared before Jammeh fled the west African country in January.

They are growing impatient with a justice system which, starved of funds, equipment and expertise, is buckling under a backlog of dozens of unsolved cases from the Jammeh era.

Elation swept Gambia when Jammeh was forced out, and the new government of President Adama Barrow has promised to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in six months, modelled on similar bodies in other African nations.

But Sandeng's family, discouraged by repeated adjournments in his case to let prosecutors gather more evidence, says that is not enough.

"We need justice to be served, then we can reconcile," his daughter Fatoumata told Reuters, wearing a black veil and a white t-shirt with a picture of Sandeng's face.

Police finally found and exhumed Sandeng's body last month, helping his case to become one of just a few to have made it to court so far. But Fatoumata also sympathises with those relatives who do not even have the consolation of a trial.   Continued...

People are seen as they sit along a street in Banjul, Gambia April 7, 2017.  REUTERS/Luc Gnago
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