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Gambians march over rape accusations against former president

International | Commission also accuses Yahya Jammeh of financial misconduct
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/09/19, 03:36 pm

Hundreds of activists turned out last week for a solidarity march in support of three women and several witnesses who accused former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of sexual assault and described the attacks in shocking detail.

A report released last month by Human Rights Watch and Trial International includes an account from Fatou Toufah Jallow, who was 16 when she won a state-sponsored beauty pageant. Jallow said the president showered her with gifts over the next six months, including installing running water at her family home in the capital city of Banjul. After refusing multiple advances, including a marriage proposal, Jammeh finally locked her in a room at the State House and told her he could have any woman he wanted. “She said that he then hit and taunted her, injected her with a liquid, and raped her,” Human Rights Watch reported.

The president, according to the report, also hired “protocol girls,” who worked at the presidential palace, received a state salary, and were on call to have sex with him. Five of his former officials said Jammeh ordered them to get the phone numbers of women he identified. His female cousin, Jimbee Jammeh, allegedly helped him gain access to the women he abused.

Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea with his cousin after losing the 2016 presidential election to Adama Barrow. Extrajudicial killings, torture, and reports of sexual abuse marred Jammeh’s 22-year leadership.

Activists shared the #IamToufah hashtag and donned white T-shirts with the inscription “Our silence is their protection” for a peaceful procession Thursday in Banjul.

“When I was coming out with my story, I did not anticipate this level of public show of support,” Jallow said.

Ousman Rambo Jatta, a spokesman for Jammeh’s political party, rejected the accusations in a statement to the BBC: “We as a party and the Gambian people are tired of the steady stream of unfounded allegations that have been reported against our ex-president.”

In March, an official commission accused Jammeh of stealing up to $1 billion from state coffers. The Truth, Reconciliation, and Repatriations Commission (TRRC) has so far revealed that he personally directed killings, among other findings. Barrow said he would consider repatriating the former leader after the commission hands in its final report.

“These admirable women broke the culture of silence. It is now crucial that the TRRC and the government give them a path to redress and justice,” said Marion Volkmann-Brandau, lead project researcher for Human Rights Watch and Trial International. “It’s time for the ‘shame’ of rape to switch sides.”

Associated Press/Photo by Pasquale Claudio Montana Lampo/ANSA Associated Press/Photo by Pasquale Claudio Montana Lampo/ANSA Capt. Carola Rackete (second from left) at Porto Empedocle in Sicily on July 1

German captain freed after rescuing migrants

An Italian court last week ruled in favor of the German captain of a migrant rescue ship who rammed through a security blockade and disobeyed orders not to dock in Italy.

Judge Alessandra Vella said 31-year-old Carola Rackete was “doing her duty saving human lives” when she docked the humanitarian ship German Sea-Watch 3 carrying 41 African migrants at the port of Lampedusa. She was placed under house arrest and faced up to 10 years in prison for hitting a border police motorboat while docking after rescuing the migrants off the coast of Libya.

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly prevented rescue boats with stranded migrants from docking, saying they only enable traffickers. “Ignoring the law and ramming a motorboat of border police officers aren’t enough motives to go to jail,” Salvini tweeted sarcastically.

Rescue groups argue it violates international law to send migrants back to war-torn Libya, where clashes persist between the forces of Khalifa Hifter’s self-named Libyan National Army and Libya’s internationally recognized government in the capital city of Tripoli. At least 53 people died and more than 130 others sustained injuries last week when an airstrike hit a detention center for mostly African migrants in a suburb of Tripoli. “There are reports that following the first impact, some refugees and migrants were fired upon by guards as they tried to escape,” the United Nations humanitarian office said. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Emily Wang Associated Press/Photo by Emily Wang Alek Sigley at the airport in Beijing on Thursday

Australian released from North Korea

A 29-year-old Australian student returned to Tokyo last week after spending one week detained in North Korea. Alek Sigley said in a statement that he had reunited with his Japanese wife in Tokyo. Sigley was pursuing a master’s in Korean literature at North Korea’s Kim Il-sung University and also ran a tour company before he disappeared.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed his release and said Swedish diplomats intervened in the absence of an Australian consul in the country.

Sigley did not explain the reason for his detention. The country’s Korean Central News Agency accused him of spying and said he provided photos to media outlets critical of the country. The agency said he was expelled out of “humanitarian leniency.”

Sigley’s case had a different ending from that of U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who was convicted in 2016 of stealing a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel. He died shortly after North Korea returned him to the United States in a comatose state.

Sigley thanked his family and the authorities for their support in gaining his release. “I intend now to return to normal life but wanted to first publicly thank everyone who worked to ensure I was safe and well,” he said. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Eugene Hoshiko (file) Associated Press/Photo by Eugene Hoshiko (file) Chinese paramilitary police shortly after the riots in Urumqi in western China’s Xinjiang province in 2009

China runs surveillance on Xinjiang visitors

Chinese border officials secretly installed surveillance apps on the phones of visitors entering the remote Xinjiang region, where officials have continued to crack down on Muslim minority groups, The Guardian reported last week. The British newspaper and other international partners uncovered the surveillance after some foreign travelers took their phones to reporters in Germany.

According to the report, officials at the region’s border with Kyrgyzstan collected travelers’ phones and downloaded a Chinese-developed app that extracts emails, texts, and contacts. It also searches against a content list that includes weapons operation manuals, Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War, and music from the Japanese metal band Unholy Grave.

Chinese authorities say about 100,000 people visit Xinjiang every year. The Chinese government is holding as many as 1 million minority Uighur Muslims and other Turkic Muslims in so-called “reeducation camps” in Xinjiang.

“It suggests that even foreigners are subjected to such mass and unlawful surveillance,” said Maya Wang, the senior China reporter at Human Rights Watch. —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Tatan Syuflana (file) Associated Press/Photo by Tatan Syuflana (file) National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March

Indonesia loses disaster agency chief

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency, died Sunday at a hospital in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He was 49.

Sutopo began working as the agency’s spokesman in 2010. He announced last year he was battling stage 4 lung cancer and might not survive a year. In 2018, his country faced multiple natural disasters, including earthquakes in Bali and Lombok and a tsunami on Suwalesi island that killed more than 2,000 people. Sutopo continued to write press releases with a drip in his hand and between chemotherapy treatments, The Guardian reported.

In November 2018, he said, “Although the doctors say that I don’t have so much time left, in my last days, I want to try to do good, to be useful. That’s so much better than having a long life but making people miserable!” —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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  • CM
    Posted: Wed, 07/10/2019 01:50 am

    Rape has become one of the most common weapons of war in Sudan and much of Africa.  I hope these efforts give women voice to accuse their assailants, and that justice is carried out on soldiers as well as all other perpetrators.  One place that warrants careful study is the camps of the displaced--the women are vulnerable and the guards feel rape is their right.