April 10/11, 2000 Student Massacre Deserves National Day Prayers:
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: Why must Gambians remember April 10/11, 2000 Student Massacre with a National Day of Prayers: So, no one will ever again have to lose their lives, something that has happened decades ago with impunity. The lives lost through targeted political violence and collateral damage in the line of political fire have value, are sacred, and deserve justice. On April 10/11 Day, we remember valiantly, as one step towards a long and arduous fight to reclaim the value and sanctity of every single life in the Gambia. Let us never forget those tears and screams that have penetrated the nights’ silence from the broken hearts of ordinary citizens. Fatoumatta: The system has failed them, one regime after another, and we must clean up the decay in the system. This is a call to all Gambians of good conscience, regardless of what politician you support. This one thing unites us all: That all Gambian lives are important. Fatoumatta: We must remember with a National Prayers Day.
Fatoumatta:The April 10/11 2000 student massacre, has become iconic of the brutality unleashed by a paranoid dictator that fostered distrust and encouraged lawmakers to grant immunity to perpetrators of those who massacred fourteen students after investigations proven to be a pointless farce.
But while the story is recognizable around the globe, as the darkest day in Gambian history, many in The Gambia don’t know much about the events leading up to that horrific moment of April 10/11, 2000 student demonstration, but we have living witnesses and protagonist of April 10/ 11 to tell their stories.
But what happened in April, was so deeply disturbing, we still feel shaken to our cores. Our automated responses to tragedy faltered that day as we all mirrored each other’s looks of horror. While we do not doubt the power of prayers, that day it did not feel like it was enough. When kids are massacred, nothing can ever be enough, knowing in our hearts it meant nothing. That was the day the reality of our helplessness hit us in full force, and it does not feel like we deserve to ever recover. Our cries for justice remain half-hearted, for nothing can make up for so devastating a loss.
When you live in The Gambia, it takes a lot to break through the self-protective numbness you develop in reaction to all the killings of defenseless students. You hear about terror and bloodshed, and you are not immune, but it doesn’t necessarily break you down. A solemn remark about how humanity is doomed, perhaps a National Day of Prayer for the deceased, and a conviction to the perpetrators can only bring give it a closure.
Fatoumatta: This year’s anniversary is significant. Not only does it mark more than a decade since the incident, which is referred to as the April 10/11 Event, but it also serves as a grim reminder of Gambia’s record of impunity.
As no state official has even been held accountable for the massacre of this incident has become emblematic of the culture of impunity that continues to plague The Gambia to the detriment of real reconciliation within our society.
No amount of remembrance can ever be enough for those fourteen students and those live-in pain and trauma.
April 10/11, 2000 Student Massacre Day of Infamy:
Alagi Yorro Jallow
‘Roaming the night’s streets’ stuck in my mind since high school is this passage which I memorized during our study of Alex la Guma’s “A Walk in the Night.”
“I am thy father’s spirit,
Doomed for a certain term to walk the night
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.” – Shakespeare’s Hamlet
I was fascinated by the inspiration behind La Guma’s title drawn from “Hamlet.” Like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, La Guma’s characters restlessly roam the night in Apartheid South Africa, haunted by crimes committed against them, crippled by their own personal failings. They in turn hound the system that robs them of life itself, “till the foul crimes done in [their] days of nature” are avenged.
April 10/11, 2000 Student massacre, to date, I still remember one tragic character – Journalist Omar Barrow and a Red Cross volunteer of sorts – whose last moments gripped my mind. After being shot cold blood at close range at the Red Cross Headquarters, Kanifing, he’s placed in an ambulance and wrapped in the warmest blankets, soft and clean, and the whitest sheets, white as cocaine. All his life, he’s only known old smelly threadbare blankets. His only moment of dignity is in death.
It strikes me, that so many tortured souls roam the night’s streets, and upon their tragic death, we wrap them up in the softest sheets of dignity too late to make any difference.
At the ending of dictatorship and, in the throes of the Gambia’s nascent democracy’s woundedness. Now I find myself needing to find anchor again as we go through the woundedness of the Gambia’s fledgling democracy that have come with so much anger oozing out of unhealed scars, loss of life, and malignant hate. Remembering April 10/11 Student Massacre so perfectly reflect the storm brewing over a young nation struggling to hold itself together, but daily surrendering to the savage seduction of propaganda, the spread of malice, the rejection of what is true, and using God to stamp every prejudice and loath for fellow humans.