Friday, 12 March 2010

First response for memory project

From my cousin Steven who go caught up between students and police at a protest in Gambia:


Security forces killed at least 14 persons during student riots on April 10 and 11 to protest the death of the student. Security forces shot and killed Omar Barrow, a journalist and Red Cross volunteer, while he was working at the Red Cross facility to assist wounded demonstrators. Despite the Government's initial insistence that security forces did not use live ammunition to suppress the riot, student victims and other witnesses alleged otherwise. A government commission of inquiry reportedly concluded that the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) officers were "largely responsible" for many of the deaths and other injuries.

On April 10, Gambia Student Union members attempted to hold a peaceful demonstration to protest the alleged mishandling of the investigation into the death of a student while in the custody of fire officers. The students also were protesting the alleged rape of a 13-year old school girl by an unidentified man in uniform. When police attempted to stop the demonstration, the student demonstrators burned tires and threw stones. In response security forces used live ammunition against the students, killing and injuring many students and arrested hundreds of students.

"Whilst travelling from Banjul towards the River leading to Sierra Leone we encountered a mass wall of students spanning the only tarmac road in The Gambia. They were setting fire to cars and shops along the main road.
We turned the car round and headed in the other direction to be confronted by a mass wall of armed personnel.
As we tried to find a side road, mortars were launched over us in the direction of the students. Everybody started running. We found a “hiding spot” down a side street.
As students poured past us setting things on fire, the army started firing. We saw children being shot at and hit plus the adults that had joined the protests. The army had pick up trucks with machine guns bolted to the roof and were firing at will as well as hitting fleeing students with baseball bats as they drove past.
We eventually deemed it too dangerous to stay and after a couple of hours decided to head to the American Embassy through a midst of gun fire. As we arrived we realised the building was also on fire and the Embassy had been evacuated. We eventually came upon an Army checkpoint at which point we abandoned the car and were transferred to an armoured personnel carrier. I think the army deemed British Nationals needed to be looked after, as at this point the government had closed the TV and radio stations and no reporting was being relayed to the rest of the world.
We were escorted back to a safe compound outside of the troubled area by approximately 100 armed guards and confined to it for the next 3 days.
We sneaked out the following night though as we heard music coming from what appeared to be a nightclub. We went in and everything stopped. The m.c was rapping anti government messages to base lines. We finished our beers and left for fear of being arrested if the place was raided."

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