Yaya Jammeh transformed into a media sensation 13 years ago for a reason different from his usual right violations.
Flanked by then aide Lamin Gano in an Aljazeera interview, Jammeh appeared calm as he bragged about his discovery of aids cure -an illness medical doctors are still to find remedy for to this day.
Drugs are diagnosed on patients as means of not containment but helping shed off the viral load.
Jammeh though, never been to a medical school, alleged to have found cure for HIV/Aids using natural herbs.
A treatment programme was announced over television and the leader who came to power through a military coup in 1994 offered unfettered access to the foreign press in sheer show of confidence that his cure was no occasion of showing off.
“I feel a great burden, a great sense of responsibility because if I fail them (aids patients), I would have disappointed them and the consequences would be very drastic and treating these people is no fun,” Jammeh said on 26th May 2007, fending off global headlines.
Wearing white gloves and clutching a glass containing oilmen, the then military man smeared it over an aid patient who lay on what looked like a hospital bed.
He had sought the services of Dr Tamsir Mbowe, the health minister at the time, who only spoke about him in exalted terms, to consolidate his treatment.
Sufferers of the ailment came from towns, some of them head of aids programmes to get a pip or get cured in a televised broadcast.
Samples are collected and reportedly evaluated to Morocco and Senegal prior to being returned and declared “cured” by Jammeh.
It’s 13 years since with the 55-year-old one-time State House occupant exiled in Equatorial Guinea and his aids patients still not healed.
An investigating commission last week made it its focus to probe into the authenticity of Jammeh’s aids cure by featuring testimonies of patients who underwent the former statesman’s treatment programme. The revelations were shocking.
Rubbing Private Parts
From snippets of the cure featured on state-controlled GRTS, patients were seen donning white singlets and being massaged with oil-like concoction by Jammeh and doctors, some of them Cubans.
However, Fatou M. Jatta, a self-confessed HIV patient narrates more occurred than meets the eye.
“I was then asked to lie on the stretcher face down. Jammeh was carrying a bottle of his cure and began rubbing it on my body along with a certain Cuban doctor. He rubbed it on my private parts and every part of me,” mother-of-one Ms. Jatta told commissioners.
According to her, she felt unconscious soon after.
“I began feeling unconscious. Then Jammeh scooped from a bucket liquid and gave me to drink. Then I was made to lie down on a mat. That is start of my problems,” Jatta, who’d spent six months at the president’s programme, elucidated.
Waiving her right to anonymity unlike a previous protected witness who testified, Jatta recounted how her and other sufferers samples were taken and mixed with blood tests of Jammeh’s guards who never had the disease in concealment efforts.
A footage of Jatta extolling Jammeh in 2007 for “helping cure her” was played at the truth-seeking commission’s hearing which she said was doctored behind the scenes.
“No one dared said anything negative about him (Jammeh). I was given a paper to read from and coached on what to say. You couldn’t afford to say anything that was negative. The treatment wasn’t true. Those who went to his treatment came back sicker. There was even a batch who when Jammeh’s declared them “undetectable” got sick and died soon after,” she said, revealing her viral load dramatically soared after she’d gone on for a routine check-up to confirm her status.
“Seven died during the treatment. Two others died after the treatment. He (Jammeh) was bent on deceiving people and the entire world into believing he was endowed with powers no one had. I lost my job and position as a result and it had an effect on my family,” she said.