Ten years on, little justice in Senegal shipwreck disaster

Senegal on Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the capsizing of the Joola, a passenger ferry that was crammed more than three times beyond its capacity and tipped over in a storm as it sailed from the west African country's south to the capital Dakar.

The official toll was 1863 but families of those who vanished say the number surpasses 2 000. The vessel was only supposed to be carrying a maximum of 580 people.

The number of deaths far exceeds the 1 500 or so who perished when the Titanic went down in 1912. Only 64 people survived.

Year after year, victims' families demand the reopening of what had been a swift and unsatisfactory judicial inquiry into the Senegal disaster.

Officials in 2003 concluded that the captain, who died in the wreck, was the only person responsible. Overcrowding and poor maintenance were also blamed.

Senegal that same year declared the case closed after several ministers and high-ranking military officers were fired, without it ever coming before a court.

Families seek closure
"Many of the families have been unable to grieve. Most of us never received the remains of our loved ones," said Eli Diatta, a resident of Ziguinchor, the main city of the southern region of Casamance.

Her football-trainer brother perished along with 26 youngsters he was chaperoning.

"The trauma remains. It shows up in many ways: dementia, sickness, school dropouts," Diatta added.

Wednesday's anniversary will be marked by prayers, religious readings and the cleaning of cemeteries. About 500 recovered bodies were buried in mass graves, most unidentified, at four cemeteries.

After then president Abdoulaye Wade lost the general election this year to Macky Sall, victims' associations are lobbying the new regime to reopen the case, but Marcel Mendy, a spokesman for the justice ministry, said such a move was not planned.

"The state has acted according to its capacity," he said.

The disaster did lead to the tightening of some maritime regulations and improved safety conditions on Senegal's busy coastal ferry route.

Due to the death of 22 French students in the disaster, an enquiry was opened in April in France, which had earlier issued arrest warrants against seven Senegalese civilian and military officials.

'Case closed'
Relatives want the wreck refloated to gain some kind of closure and search for any remains that may still exist. Authorities promised to do so under the Wade regime but the project shows no signs of materialising.

"It's a delicate matter and any decision on the refloating must be concerted," Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye told lawmakers earlier this month.

The wreck is located off the coast of Gambia, a narrow, English-speaking nation that almost bisects Senegal.

Construction began at the start of the year for a memorial to be erected in Dakar to honour the victims, but work there has since ground to a halt.

In Senegal, the majority of families accepted 10-million CFA francs ($19 700) offered by the state for each victim, but others have refused, still hoping for successful legal action.

The greatest maritime disaster on record was the torpedoing of the German liner Wilhelm Gustloff packed with refugees by a Russian submarine in the Baltic in 1945, when more than 9 000 people died. – AFP


Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Workers’ R60m ‘lost’ in banks scam

An asset manager, VBS Mutual Bank and a Namibian bank have put the retirement funds of 26 000 municipal workers in South Africa at risk

‘Judge President Hlophe tried to influence allocation of judges to...

Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath accuses Hlophe of attempting to influence her to allocate the case to judges he perceived as ‘favourably disposed’ to former president Jacob Zuma

SAA grounds flights due to low demand

SAA is working to accommodate customers on its sister airlines after it cancelled flights due to low demand

Press Releases

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.