A Ghanaian shoe seller, Martin Kyere is the first non-Gambian to demand justice from exile leader of the West African nation, Yahya Jammeh.
Martin is at the forefront of seeking prosecution of Jammeh for torture and the death of Ghanaian and Nigerian migrants who the Jammeh-government said were mercenaries.
A recent investigation of the 2005 incident by Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International said the migrants – including some 44 Ghanaians and several Nigerians – were arrested in July 2005 at a beach where they had landed, then transferred to the Gambian Naval Headquarters in Banjul, the capital.
They were detained there in the presence of the then inspector general of police, the director general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the chief of the defense staff, and the commander of the National Guards.
At least two of them were in telephone contact with Jammeh during the operation. The head and several members of the paramilitary Junglers were also there, the report said.
Eventually, it was the Junglers who over a week, summarily executed the migrants near Banjul and along the Senegal-Gambia border near Jammeh’s hometown of Kanilai.
Kyere was detained in a Banjul police station, then driven into the forest. In February 2018, he explained to Human Rights Watch and TRIAL International how he escaped, just before other migrants were apparently killed.
“We were in the back of a pickup truck,” he said. “One man complained that the wires binding us were too tight and a soldier with a cutlass sliced him on the shoulder, cutting his arm, which bled profusely. It was then that I thought, ‘We’re going to die.’
But as the truck went deeper into the forest, I was able to get my hands free. I jumped out from the pickup and started to run into the forest. The soldiers shot toward me but I was able to hide. I then heard shots from the pickup and the cry, in Twi [Ghanaian language], ‘God save us!’”
Jammeh lost December 2016 elections to President Adama Barrow, he attempted to overturn the loss and was forced into exile in January 2017. He is currently in Equatorial Guinea. Gambians who suffered rights abuses under his regime continue to press for justice at home and abroad.
President Barrow of The Gambia has suggested that he would seek Jammeh’s extradition from Equatorial Guinea if his prosecution was recommended by the country’s Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, which is expected to begin work in the next few months with an initial two-year mandate.
The government and international activists and academics have said that the political, institutional and security conditions do not yet exist in The Gambia for a fair trial of Yahya Jammeh which would contribute to Gambia’s stability.
President Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea said in January that he would “analyze [any extradition request] with [his] lawyers.”
A week later, however, he said “we have to protect him [Jammeh], we have to respect him as a former African head of state, because that is what is going to ensure that the other heads of state of Africa who have to leave power do not fear for subsequent harassment.”