Senegal sinking victims want Paris probe

2012-03-19 17:27

Ziguinchor - Relatives of over 1 800 people killed in Africa's worst maritime disaster say the case must not be buried as Dakar attempted on Monday to have a French inquiry into the accident annulled.

In Ziguinchor in the southern Casamance region of Senegal, the air was heavy around a few white tombstones where victims of the 2002 Joola ferry disaster are buried at the overgrown Kantene cemetery.

"The Joola case will not go unpunished despite Senegal's acrobatics to have it buried," said Eli Jean-Bernard Diatta, standing among the graves.

She lost her elder brother who had been chaperoning 26 children on a football trip when the boat capsized in stormy seas off Gambia while sailing between Casamance and the capital Dakar. None of the children survived.

Kantene is one of four cemeteries where about 500 recovered bodies were buried in mass graves, most unidentified. The severely overloaded ferry was licensed to carry 550 people but had 1 927 passengers on board, of whom only 64 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.

However, 22 French students died in the accident and their families that same year brought legal action against the Senegalese authorities in France for manslaughter and failing to help people in danger.

In 2008 France issued warrants against nine Senegalese officials, later withdrawing those against ex-prime minister Mame Madior Boye and ex-defence minister Youba Sambou.

Waiting for truth

A Paris appeals court in 2009 threw out an earlier bid by Dakar to have the case annulled, but a similar request was filed again a year later by the lawyers for the seven civilian and military officials still the subject of arrest warrants.

One of them was arrested in Paris in October 2010.

In the courtyard of her home in Ziguinchor, Marie Helene Mendy, who was widowed in the accident and left to raise two children, said she was still awaiting "the truth".

"The State closed the case but not the families. If we don't judge this case our children will. One of my sons tells me 'Mummy, when I am big I am going to look for my dad in the sea'. He hasn't forgotten."

Pierre Coly is one of the 64 survivors: "I am glad the Joola case is still in the news in France while in Senegal they want to stifle it. If it was possible to have a similar inquiry here that would be good," he said.

The Joola was carrying people from across Senegal, including school students and artists, as well as citizens from Belgium, Cameroon, France, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Niger, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland.

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 the number at 1 953 at least.


Read more on:    senegal  |  maritime  |  west africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


DA wants to empower fishing communities - Zille

DA leader Helen Zille says the party has a plan for harbours and small-scale fishing communities.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.95

I'm shopping for:


You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.