Former Gambian strong man, Yahya Jammeh lost his throne in 2017, but his past still haunts him.

Since his forced exit last year, no formal charges have been brought against him for his crimes in his 22-year rule in the Gambia.

But three victims of a fakeHIV/ AIDS cure created by Jammeh have decided to sue him for damages.

This has now become the first case against Yahya Jammeh to reach national courts since the former leader fled into exile.

So, what exactly was Jammeh’s offence as it relates to a fake HIV/AIDS cure?

Well, the victims say, Jammeh didn’t quite believe in orthodox treatment of the dreaded virus. So, he created his own AIDS treatment programme which forced the victims to give up their anti-retroviral drugs and home-made potions instead.

So, the victims’ health only worsened while some others even died during the programme.

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“I believe it is my responsibility to hold Jammeh to account,” said Ousman Sowe, Lamin Ceesay and Fatou Jatta who were among the first Gambians who joined Jammeh’s HIV/AIDS treatment programme in 2007.

 “I knew that one day the real story would be told,” Sowe, a 61-year-old former university lecturer said.

People were afraid to criticise the president when he was in power, the victims said, so doctors and patients publicly declared that his medicines were working.

The programme hampered real HIV/AIDS work in the Gambia, which trails behind other African countries in treatment rates, according to the U.N. agency UNAIDS.

But that was not all, survivors said the programme also worsened stigma against people with HIV and stripped them of dignity.

They told Thomson Reuters Foundation that sometimes Jammeh would rub ointment on their bodies in sessions that were broadcast on state television.

But this only compounded their woes as they lost their jobs afterwards and struggled to rent houses since their faces were recognizable.

“Jammeh must pay for what he has done to us,” said Ceesay.

The victims are seeking financial damages for harm suffered and a declaration that their human rights were violated, said Saramba Kandeh, a legal associate at AIDS-Free World.

Jammeh will be tried in absentia and can be represented if he wants, she said.

“We want to send a clear message that people living with HIV are people like us,” Kandeh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Gambia-based Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and a Gambian attorney are also working on the case.

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