Wednesday, January 22, 2020

AT THE FARABA BANTA COMMISSION: Chairperson, Council Of Elders, Others Testify



Yesterday on the 24 of July 2018, the chairperson of Faraba Banta Council of Elders Fansu BK Conteh alias Jung Conteh appeared before the Commission which was set up by the president to probe into the unfortunate incident of that fateful day of June 18th 2018, when live bullets were sprayed on unarmed demonstrators, leaving three people or more dead and scores seriously injured.

In his testimony, he said sometime around March 2017, there was a meeting held in the village Bantaba in the presence of the VDC, Alkalo, Council of Elders and Julakay himself. As the meeting began, Julakay introduced himself as a businessman and told the gathering that his purpose was to come and chat with the villagers regarding his obtaining of licence. He added that he came with a bunch of kola nuts and D15,000.00. In the meeting, he said Julakay narrated that he doesn’t want the villagers to be seeing trucks moving in and out without knowing the purposes.

During the meeting as Jung narrated, one of the elders by the name Jamba Wutu Sanyang raised a concern about the trucks using the road that went through the village to the site and all the attendees to that meeting agreed. Then out of the money brought by Julakay, D10,000.00 was given to the VDC chairman by the Alkalo for the development of the village mosque and the balance of D5,000.00 was shared among all the attendees for their private use.

According to Jung, while speaking at the meeting, he told Julakay that they need assistance from him which includes repairing of the village road and bridge, building a local market for the village women, as to helping in the rehabilitation of the village health centre, provision of job employment for the youths and empowerment of women to enable them sell their farm produce. He said Julakay agreed to all these.

Continuing his testimony, he said during the meeting an amount of D70,000.00 was suggested by the VDC to be paid to the village by Julakay but as the discussion went further, they agreed on D100,000.00 and everyone present at that meeting welcomed that idea.

Testifying further, he said that after being called to several meeting, some of which he attended but others not, they had a successful meeting with the former IGP Landing Kinteh; that during the meeting with the IGP, the IGP advised them not to be involved in any violence or cause anything in relation to violence and the VDC concurred with the IGP.

He added that on the 18th June 2018 after attending his morning prayers at the mosque, he heard an announcement from one Sanna Jallow saying in the Mandinka language “every good citizen of Faraba should come out in their large numbers; both men and women, young and old should come out and demonstrate to tell the government that sand mining will not be done by Julakay in Faraba”.

He said afterward, he saw people moving towards his compound with stones, sticks and cutlasses; that he could identify one Sanna Jallow carrying a stone; that they then started stoning his compound and later the rioters enter into his compound and started breaking his windows and doors, his car was set ablaze as well as his house.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sulayman Jammeh an old man of 90yrs and a native of Faraba Narrated before the Commission his ordeal on the 18th June. He said he was sitting in his compound when he saw people passing-by and then he asked what was happening. He said he was told that there were people at the sand mining site then he also left for the place, upon his arrival he said he went into the middle of the crowd and told the youths to move back and avoid causing trouble.

He said he advised the youths not to cause any violence, utter any foul words. or do anything bad and he was able to convince everyone to move backward. He said he heard a gunshot but as he turned, he was hit by a bullet in his left thigh, then he kneeled down with both his hands on the ground; and the youths then rushed towards him and carried him to a car which transported him to Brikama Health Centre, from where he was later taken to Banjul. He however said he cannot identify who amongst the PIU personnel shot him.

Abdoulie Jobe who is a native of Pirang also appeared before the Commission and testified that, he was in Pirang on the 17th June and left for Faraba around 9 to 10am on the next day which fell on 18th June, 2018. On his way to Faraba in a public transport Vehicle, he heard a lady speaking on a phone and exclaimed “someone died?”

Upon arrival in his uncle’s compound he saw people coming from different directions and then he asked the uncle about what’s happening but the uncle told him that he is not sure of what was happening. Later, he said, he was not feeling comfortable and decided to go back home to Pirang, but he was told there was no transport and advised to wait until things get calm.

Then he said, he saw two PIU personnel with guns coming and entering a lady’s house. He said he heard the lady telling them that, “I am here only with my kids, please do not kill us.” He said they then left but came towards the house he was in and he ran into the bedroom; that one of the PIU personnel fired a tear gas canister into the house which did not explode well; that a PIU personnel then got into the house and took him outside; that he was now arrested and whilst taking him to outskirt of the village one of them hit him with the butt of his gun and they started beating him severely until one of his tooth got broken. He added that a PIU personnel by the surname Joof then remarked, “you are lucky that you are not dead because we are ordered to kill”. He further said while lying on the ground, one PIU personnel by the surname Darboe hit him with a big stick and others then joined in beating him again. The witness noted that though four PIU personnel beat him, the beatings of Darboe and Joof were so severe that he sustained injuries on his head and leg. He also said, later PIU Darboe told him that, “after we are going to Sanyang, we heard they are also acting rudely there.” He told the Commission that subsequent to this he saw about 20 PIU personnel approaching him and one of them hit him with a baton and another by the name Cham told them to stop beating him.

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