News24

Senegal disaster case revisit demanded

2012-06-07 20:07

Dakar - Relatives of those killed in one of the worst ever shipping disasters, which left about 1 900 dead, want the case reopened as the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the Senegalese ferry Joola nears.

Nassardine Aidara, president of an organisation of the victims' families, said the September 26 anniversary "is the time to remind government that the Joola case is still open".

The severely overloaded Joola, licensed to carry only 550 people, capsized in stormy seas off Gambia in 2002 while sailing between Senegal's southern Casamance region and the capital Dakar.

The official death toll of 1 863 was 300 more than the number lost in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, but other sources put it at 1 953 at least. Only 64 people survived.

In 2003 Senegal declared the case closed after several ministers and high-ranking military officers were fired, without it ever coming before a court.

The dead captain was declared the main person responsible.

"We call on government to see that justice is done. The Joola case must be reopened and all those implicated, no matter what their rank, should be judged," said Aidara.

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.