Monday, February 26, 2024

Stories of rape and murders: Testimony of a ‘backway’ returnee

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TRIGGER WARNING: The following reading includes stories of rape, murder, and torture. Therefore, the content is disturbing and might be harmful or traumatising to some readers. If you believe the reading will be traumatising for you, do not read further.

By: Muhammed Lamin Drammeh

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Gang-raping a girl until she died, stabbing others in their neck and eyes, and jettisoning a young boy off the boat for allegedly being a witch, an ambitious ‘backway’ returnee who vowed never to return narrated macabre tales of deaths and rape on a boat bound for the Canary Island in Spain from Senegal, where six young Gambians were allegedly murdered.

Baboucarr Badjie is a 29-year-old tailor with a wife and four children. He decided to take the perilous ‘backway’ journey on October 29th, hoping to reach Europe and improve his family’s financial situation. He was inspired by seeing his childhood friends use the same route and achieve success in Europe. Badjie hoped to follow in their footsteps and make a better future for his family.

“I felt like I was behind. I have seen all my childhood friends who used the way and now doing big things for their families, going and coming almost every time. I have my skills as a tailor, but the work is seasonal. That’s the reason I also felt like let me also embark on this journey,” Badjie told The Fatu Network.

According to him, he boarded a boat in Sukuta, a village in Senegal, with other Gambians. The captains, he told The Fatu Network, were all Senegalese nationals.

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Badjie, visibly emotional, narrated to The Fatu Network the horrendous and despicable acts that had happened on the boat, leading to the killings of some Gambians.

“The first person who died was a young boy. He felt asleep on the boat and when he abruptly woke up, he was terrified and said that he wanted to go back to his mother. When he said that, the captains said he was a witch, and they started hitting him hard. They later tied him. And anytime the wind blows to a certain extent, these captains would say that happened because of the boy, and they [would go] back and hit him again. [This happened] until he died,” he narrated, adding that his body was thrown into the sea a day after he was killed.

Following that tragic incident, as per Badjie, another Gambian, whom he identified as a soldier who did not want to mention his name during the journey because he did not inform his family or friends that he was embarking on such a journey, felt bad and punched one of the captains for what they did to the young Gambian. Moments later, they attacked him too, and eventually killed him.

“He was first stabbed in the eyes. This is a man who said his parents had only him, and he was married with a kid. Blood was pouring from his eyes, and I had to give him my shirt. Later, around 5 a.m., they came back and stabbed him in the head. That was it. He told me that he was not going to make it, that’s how he [took] his last breath,” said Badjie as he took a moment of silence, struggling to hide his emotions.

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According to him, the third person who was killed was a young Gambian lady who was gang-raped by the captains until she died.

“There was nowhere to lie [her] down. They would bend her and rape her one after the other. The lady was tired and was complaining. They [kept raping] her continuously until the lady could not breathe anymore and fell on the floor of the boat. She died,” he narrated.

Three other Gambians were also murdered, including a boy who was stabbed in the neck by the captains believed to be Senegalese nationals.

Badjie, who vowed never to return on such a journey, said he did not know the names of all those who were murdered because none of them was willing to say their names.

He told The Fatu Network that as they reached the Moroccan waters, a group of Gambians aboard threatened the captains in Wolof that they would report them to the authorities upon reaching their destination. Fearing the consequences, the captains turned back and headed back to Senegal instead of continuing their journey to Europe for greener pastures.

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