The year 2016 is no more, but it has been a memorable year, a year that many Gambians are proud of, a year when the unthinkable had happened. This is the year when, contrary to the expectations of many, the opposition formed a united front against the ruling APRC to contest the December 1 presidential election. It is the year that sceptics witnessed the defeat of the incumbent, President Jammeh, at the polls. To crown it all, it is the year that the incumbent conceded defeat at the polls. Needless to say, the political movement of 2016 has ushered in 2017 and we should expect more surprises, may be more dramatic and meaningful surprises.
In the series under this caption, Foroyaa will sum up the stories it published relating to important events and developments in 2016.
We start with Detention without Trial and Disappearance without Trace. In this edition we will deal with those who are still under detention or have disappeared and are yet to be traced.
DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL, DISAPPEARANCE WITHOUT TRACE IN 2016
By Mustapha Jallow
The arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention without court trials and disappearance without trace of Gambians, such as journalists, religious leaders, political dissidents, ruling party stalwarts, public servants, cabinet ministers, youths and members of the security forces is becoming nightmarish. The trauma and agony of these victims or survivors of human rights violations and impunity are of great concern to their families and loved ones.
These desperate family members have given fresh accounts of how their fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and other close relatives have been snatched away by agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), men in plain clothes (including the dreadful Black suits) and Police (CID) officers who would come to their homes at some ungodly hour, pick them up and whisk them away in tinted glass vehicles often to an unknown destination.
Such arrest and detention incommunicado contravenes section 19 which stipulates that a detainee should be informed of the reason(s) of his/her and access a lawyer within three hours; and if such detainee is not released within 72 hours he/she should be brought before a court of law. But the testimonies in this article show that detainees have spent days, months or years in detention while others have disappeared for more than a decade now without trace by their families.
Their whereabouts has become a mystery to affected family members, who keep wondering and asking if their loved ones are alive or dead. They also describe the economic hardship that they have been going through, especially their young children, who are also suffering hardship due to the absence of their main or sole breadwinner.
While family members have made several calls on the outgoing regime of President Yaya Jammeh to send a team to investigate the whereabouts of their loved ones who went missing, all their frantic efforts and hopes were futile. One thing the president can do in commemoration of the New Year is to release all detainees who are unlawfully held, allow access to family members and lawyers and set up a team to investigate the long list of disappearances. This will win him honour and glory.
The list below, by no means exhaustive, gives names and dates of arrestees and describes how their arrest or abduction was effected.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR 56 DAYS:
MR BAKARY FATTY, an agriculture reporter at the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS), has been in detention at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul without charge since on Tuesday, 8 November 2016.
Aji Mama Sonko, one of Mr Fatty’s wives walked into Foroyaa office and asked Foroyaa to do an update again about her detained husband. She said: “We as wives and mothers, want our husband back home immediately. It really pains us a lot when our children and his old mother ask about their father or son. Do the authorities want us to continue lying to our children every time, telling them that their father travelled and will be back soon? She asked. It would be shameful if your children later realise that you were hiding something from them,” she added.
Recently, Madam Sonko told this reporter that though they were allowed to visit their husband at NIA, she and other family members do not why he is put behind bars. She also described her husband as the head of their family and is concerned about his state of well-being. “The absence of our responsible husband has become nightmarish, causing us economic hardship at home,” she complained.
Bakary’s arrest came in the wake of his return from Kanilai on Monday, 7 November at a time when he started complaining that his asthma had attacked him again. She said on Tuesday morning, while he was under treatment, he received a phone call from an unknown caller who told him that he is wanted at GRTS and Fatty replied to the said caller that he is ill and cannot go to the office.
“Few minutes later, Mr Fatty kept receiving calls upon calls but his response to them was that he is ill and cannot go to the office,” the relative disclosed.
Around 12 noon, Mr Fatty, the bread winner of the family, received yet another call and this time the caller told him that his boss wanted him immediately at GRTS. The source further noted that Fatty had no option but to go and answer at the office.
“While he was with one of the wives in his vehicle, the phone rang again and the caller asked for his location; but he told him that he was on his way to the office. He later dropped his wife at Farato as she was going to the clinic and he then proceeded,” the relative explained.
The relative revealed that the wife later received a phone call from her husband telling her that his office was filled with NIA agents who were taking him to their office in Banjul.
“The wife overheard them telling him that he should switch off his phone and his final words to me was ‘just pray for me’ then hereafter their communication was cut-off. His entire family became worried and some of them including me visited the NIA headquarters but the agents there told us that they do not know Bakary Fatty,” she said.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR 2 YEARS 129 DAYS:
Ex-Human Resource Director at Gamcel, MR. SEEDY JAITEH, has spent two years 129 days incommunicado at the maximum security wing in Mile Two prison without access to his family members.
Mr. Jaiteh, after his release in February 2014, was rearrested by the state agents at his residence in Manjai Kunda in the late hours of the morning on 27 August 2014 and then taken to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul, where he was held until 3 September, before being sent to Mile Two where he is currently held for years now without charge.
According to family sources they have been visiting the prison on several occasions but prison officers never allow them access to see their loved one. The source added they tried all means in order to talk to their detained relative but officers at the prison told them that they do not have any authority to allow that.
A source in tears while speaking to this reporter through phone, concluded by calling on the authorities to release Mr Jaiteh, who they describe as husband of two wives and father of a child.
IN DETENTION FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR:
IMAM SHEIKH OMAR COLLEY, an imam of a mosque in Jabang Borehole, is still being unlawfully held incommunicado at Janjangbureh Prison in the Central River Region (CRR) for more a year now without access to his brothers.
“We stopped visiting the said prison as anytime time we made any attempt, the prison wardens would deny us access to our brother. So we have no other option till we started approaching some officials to talk to the outgoing President Jammeh about our brother’s detention,” one of the brothers said.
Imam Colley, who they described as main breadwinner of his two wives and little children is under state custody without any charge preferred against him.
According to the brother they are repeating the same thing by calling on the authorities to secure the release of Imam Colley as his family home are experiencing severe economic hardship.
It was reported that while Imam Colley was at home on that fateful day when he received a telephone call from someone who claimed to be calling from Bansang Police Station and asking him to report to Old Yundum police station. It was said that the unknown caller told the imam to call him with his mobile phone when he reached the station so that he (the caller) could talk to the station officer (SO). This was said to be around the time when the imam was about to go to the mosque to perform his ‘Maghreb’ (twilight) prayers.
A family source explained that they accompanied Mr. Colley to the station and while they were there, their brother called the said caller from Bansang to talk to the police officer they met there. This police officer, he said, later asked him to hand over his personal belongings e.g. mobile phone, wrist watch, rosary beads, etc., and enter into the cell. He said the Imam then complied with this police order.
He said when they returned to the station around 7am the next day on Friday, they were told by the police officers they met there that their brother was no longer in their custody. He said the brother was later traced to the NIA, but they were denied access to him while he was held there before his current detention at Janjangbureh Prison.
‘‘He was detained at the NIA headquarters in Banjul for 48 days and that while we were making efforts to access him, we later got information that our brother has being moved from the NIA to Janjangbureh Prison in the CRR,’’ the brother said.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR:
ALHAGI OUSMAN SAWANEH, the imam of Kanifing South, who was picked up by state agents around 10am on Sunday, 18 October, 2015, while leading a team of volunteers to clear the grass in the Kanifing South Cemetery, is still held incommunicado at Janjanbureh prison in the Central River Region (CRR) without any access to family members.
According to family sources it is one year and 2 months now their imam had spent in detention without trial at the prison. Following the freedom of political prisoners and other government officials who were recently granted, sources though that their loved one would be also released as soon as possible since after court ordered the state to free him but their hopes were disappointed.
‘‘We cannot access him since he was taken away, we have done many efforts or solutions so that he can be a free man but all went in vain. It’s not easy at all for a family man to be kept in one place like that without any reason being advanced to his entire family members,’’ source lamented.
His wives and young family are victims of long detention as an impunity are suffering and being traumatized by the lack of access to their loved one, this was disclosed after several visits to respectively home of the imam.
It was earlier reported that imam’s whereabouts were not initially made known to the family but he was later traced to the NIA headquarters in Banjul. He was later moved from the NIA to Janjanbureh Prison on the 27 October.
Source explained before their loved one was taken away there were 2 unidentified men in civilian clothes, who came to their home and asked for him and were told them that Imam Sawaneh have gone to the Cemetery and that the unknown visitors then requested for his phone number which was given to them.
“After giving them the number, they left and did not disclose to us what their mission was but an eyewitness who was with the imam at the cemetery came and told us that he saw him being approached by two men who asked to see him in private and later went with him. We then started calling his cell phone but all of a sudden it was switched off as at that moment we began searching for him until he was finally traced to the NIA,’’ disclosed the family source.
With the filing of a writ of habeas corpus by the Imam’s family, the high court in Banjul ordered for the Imam’s release on Monday, 21 March, 2016, either conditionally or unconditionally but up to date he still held at remote prison camp in Janjanbureh in the hinterland.
‘‘We do not know why he held in spite of the high court order for his release. We have been expressing our concerns over his well-being and urged the outgoing government facility for him to be freed and reunite with his family members,’’ she said.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR:
MR. OUSMAN JAMMEH, before his dismissal, arrest and held incommunicado, served under the outgoing regime of President of Yahya Jammeh as a Deputy Minister of Agriculture President.
According to a close family source ex- deputy minister has now been detained for a year and 2 months at the maximum security wing in Mile Two prison without access or taken to a court of law, adding that they have approached several government officials to assist them to secure the release of their son but none of them have accepted their invitation. ‘‘We even went to a local newspaper in Kanifing which is said to be owned by the state and reported the matter to them but we were told that such are not allowed to be published on their paper,” source said.
However, asked if any reason is advanced to them regarding Mr. Jammeh being held behind bars for such a long period, the source said since then no reason has been advanced to them and are hereby calling on the outgoing government to release their loved one.
On Thursday 15 October, 2015 upon his removal from office, he was held at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul, where he spent 91 days incommunicado before being sent to the prison.
Sources indicate that he had left his home on Thursday 15 October, to attend and officiate the commemoration of World Food Day in Basse, Upper River Region (URR), but that while on his way he received a phone call from unidentified men who asked him to cancel his trip and return to attend an urgent meeting in state house. While returning he was picked up by men in plain clothes and taken away with his official vehicle to the NIA.
A source disclosed that two of his orderlies were escorted by the agents to his residence in Kanifing South where they informed family members that their loved one was under arrest. “When we were informed about the sudden arrest and detention of our breadwinner we then began to search for him and later traced him to the NIA office in Banjul. We visited the NIA on Saturday 17 October 2015 with a bowl of food, clothes and other needs but we were told by agents we met at the gate that food and other items would not be allowed in and we were also not allowed access,” the source said.
According to a family source, while still in custody at maximum security wing on Tuesday, 21 June, they attempted another visit to him but were again denied access. “Some family members went there to appeal to the prison authorities to allow them access to atlas talk to him briefly after having spent nine months in detention but they denied all our request,” source explained.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR 120 DAYS:
A former deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, MR. MOMODOU SARJO JALLOW, since on Friday, 2 September, 2016, is under detention at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul and is denied access to his defense counsel and family members as well.
A concerned family source who has been moving from place to place for the NIA to release their main breadwinner, said: “On Thursday, morning of 22 December, his Lawyer and I went to NIA again to request for access to him but we were told by some agents that their boss stepped out and asked us to return in the afternoon. Upon our return we were told the same thing that we should return in evening, and when we returned in the evening we were told the same thing again. We see this as unfair treatment,” he said.
Family members have called respect for section 19 of the Constitution which stipulates that a person detained should be released within 72 hours or taken to court.
The family had filed a suit in court for the release of Mr Jallow and the court ordered for his release but he is yet to be released. On 17 October 2016, Justice Otaba of the Special Criminal Division of the High Court in Banjul granted bail to Mr. Jallow in the sum of D200, 000, with two Gambian sureties, with a property of the like sum. The trial judge also ordered for the accused person to submit his travelling documents to the Principal Registrar of the high court and for the sureties to swear to an affidavit of means.
According to them they have met all the conditions that were imposed by the court but they were told that one thing is remaining which is his travelling documents and that one was taken by unidentified men in plain clothes who came to arrest him on Friday, 2 September, at his residence at Manjai Kunda..
“We have written to the Attorney General a few days ago requesting for an intervention but up to date we do not any reply yet,” he said.
According to the wife, her husband’s house was burgled twice and his personal laptop was taken away during the burglary.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR:
ALHAGI CHERNO GASSAMA the imam of Dasilami Mosque in Lower Fulladou West District, is said to be still held incommunicado at Janjanbureh prison in the Central River Region (CRR) without access to family members or a charge preferred against him.
Imam Gassama was earlier picked up and taken away on Monday, 2 November, 2015 at his residence by agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), accompanied by a police officer from the Brikamaba police station.
Family members told this paper that upon arrival at the station, he was detained briefly before being finally moved to the CRR prison on the same day. They added that they were never told or aware of the reason(s) for his held. They have urged the outgoing government to release their imam.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR 254 DAYS:
HARUNA GASSAMA, former President of the Rice Farmers’ Cooperative Ltd, is still detained at the Janjanbureh prison in the Central River Region (CRR) without trial or access to family members.
He was picked up on Saturday, 23 April 2016 around 1pm at his home in Darsilami in CRR by some men in plainclothes who asked him to go with them to Brikamaba police station where he was put behind bars for hours before being sent to the prison as where he clocked 254 days in detention.
“We were not informed about the reason for his arrest and detention for the second time, adding that his own motor bike was also taken away by the state security agents,” the source said.
Mr. Gassama was elected unopposed as president at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the rice farmers’ cooperative on 5 January 2012. He was later arrested on 2 March 2015, the very day when officials from the Sheriff Division of the high court came to Lower Fulladu District to execute the order of a judgment delivered on the 12 January which is in favour of the plaintiff (Mr. Gassama and his newly elected committee). The NIA detained him for 185 days before he was released on 3 September last year. He was re-arrested in late April 2016.
INCOMMUNICADO FOR 261 DAYS:
DEMBO DARBOE, ALIAS TOURAY DARBOE, a residence at Kafuta in the Kombo East, West Coast Region, was arrested and detained at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters since on 16th April, 2016, his brothers or wife cannot access him.
According to his brother, Balla Darboe, the situation of their brother is still the same; they were denied access to see him anytime they visit the NIA. “I went there two weeks ago but I was not allowed to see him, even though they confirmed to me that he was still in their custody. In his entire period of detention, it was only once that one of my sisters met and talked to him,” he added.
Touray Darboe’s arrest came in the wake of the arrest of leadership of the United Democratic Party (UDP), including its party leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and other members, when they staged a peaceful demonstration to demand for Solo Sandeng, one of their members, to be produced either dead or alive.
A source revealed that it was on the same day (April 16) when two NIA operatives came to their family residence in Kafuta and picked him up, adding that since then he has not been released.
The family members have expressed concern over the unlawful detention pointing out that their loved one was in his home village at the time of the 14 and 16 April incidents.
The aging mother and wife of the detained Mr. Darboe, who has a history of mental ill health, are appealing to the authorities to release their son and husband who is vulnerable to a relapse if he does not take his medication.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 54 DAYS:
OMAR MALLEH JABANG, a businessman, who was abducted in broad daylight at Abuko Abattoir on Thursday 10 November 2016 by three men in plain clothes is still out of sight.
According to family source they have reliable information that their father is under the custody of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) headquarters in Banjul but that any time they visit the Agency for access the agents would always told them that he is not with them.
‘‘Since his abduction by plainclothes officers none of his brothers especially the wives have access to him which is causing them sleeplessness and desperation,” the source said.
Family members are calling his immediate release.
According to a source at the Abattoir the ardent supporter of the Independent Candidate, Dr Isatou Touray was picked up from the Abattoir between 9am and 10am by a white pickup with a numberless number plate. Disclosing the fact, source added that they heard Omar asking them why he was being arrested and he was told that he would be told later; that two of them boarded the pickup with him while the third abductor drove Mr Jabang’s Pajero.
The arrest was preceded by phone calls and tracking of his pajero by a black jeep. Unknown callers purporting to be calling from the PMO had asked him on two occasions to report for work as he was being reinstated to a job he lost some five years ago but that he did not go. However, when he was invited by a caller to the Abuko Abattoir he went and that was the time he was abducted. Family members say that they noticed that as Omar Jabang left his home in Nema Kunku the same black jeep followed him.
They added that they received information of his abduction soon after it took place but whenever they called his four phone numbers the phones kept ringing without a response. They expressed concern for his safety and security.
They say they have reported the matter to the police at Nema Kunku and Bundung. The police at Nema Kunku have recorded the complaint in their diary while the police at Bundung have referred them to the PRO at the police headquarters in Banjul. They pursued the matter but without results.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 6 MONTHS:
MR. SANUSI SANYANG, a resident of New Jeshwang, has gone missing for 6 months 32 days and none of his brothers nor wife knows where he is up to date.
When his wife, Awa Jammeh, was contacted on the issue of her husband, she said that they have made several search since he was picked up at their compound but yet still there is no sign of him. “We have visited the known detention centres within the Greater Banjul area but what they always told us is that ‘they do not have any name like Sanusi under their custody. We are currently making further enquiries from our relatives in the country, whether they have heard anything about my husband’s whereabouts,’’ she explained.
The mother of 5 children is still calling for the release of her husband or an investigation on his whereabouts as they cannot sleep without his return.
Mrs. Jammeh had earlier walked into the Foroyaa’s office on 27 September, to explain her ordeal and solicit support in her efforts to search for her husband, adding that their loved one was picked up on 10 May 2016 and never returned home.
“I was in our house together with my husband while our kids were outside playing around 3 pm when a group of men in plain clothes were seen outside our compound with a vehicle with tinted glasses. An unknown person came into the house and informed Sanusi that some men standing outside were asking for him and when he (Sanusi) stepped out he was immediately forced into the waiting vehicle and then whisked away,” the wife narrated.
The distraught looking wife, who was almost in tears, explained the agony and suffering which she now finds herself in as a mother of four children, including a 1 year seven months old baby, following the abduction and disappearance of her husband for more than four months now.
Mr. Sanyang is a painter by profession and is residing with his family in New Jeshwang.
The wife explained that she does not know the reason why her husband was abducted. She said since the day he went missing none of his relatives has seen him or knows his whereabouts.
“I’m really worried about the education of our children. They are presently going to school. The little income I earn from laundering is not sufficient to support even our survival,” she disclosed.
Expressing the painful moment and economic hardship she and their children are going through, she said she cannot find support for their 5 young family and appealed to the authorities to release her husband who is a father of 4 kids.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS NOW:
A former soldier of the Gambia Armed Forces went missing on 21 March 2006. LIEUTENANT EBOU LOWE is nowhere to be traced by his family members.
According to his brother who has been visiting Foroyaa’s office on several occasions to report the disappearance of his brother (Lowe) they still cannot locate him and blamed the government refusing to investigate whereabouts.
“We haven’t seen him or received any information regarding his whereabouts and have been visiting the prison without success,” said the brother.
Following the announcement that the president was going to release detainees and convicted prisoners, the family was very optimistic that their loved one who has disappeared for more than a decade would be among those to be freed. He explained that they went to Mile Two prison on the 24 July 2015 in anticipation that he would be among those going to be released, but were disappointed that he was not among those released.
Reports reveal that Lt. Lowe was among the military officers who were arrested in the wake of the 21 March 2006 attempted coup to overthrow the APRC regime. It was later announced by the state owned television (GRTS) on 4th April 2006 that Lt. Ebou Lowe had escaped with four other security officers while being transferred to Janjangbureh prison in the hinterland. Since then none of his family members has seen or heard from him.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS NOW:
CHIEF EBRIMA MANNEH, a former State House senior reporter and Crime Watch columnist of the Daily Observer Newspaper also disappeared after his arrest by the state agents.
According to reports journalist Manneh was picked at his workplace in Bakau and taken to different detention centres in the country and that occurred immediately after the African Union (AU) Summit hosted by The Gambia in Bakau on 7 July.
Chief Manneh’s brother earlier revealed that they have not set an eye on their since the day he stepped out for work at Bakau. “We are appealing to the general public that anybody who locates our brother let them contact his family members immediately,” he added.
An old man said to be Chief’s father was in tears while explaining the situation of his missing son, said that he would not rest searching or stop requesting from the government about journalist Manneh’s whereabouts. I would do all means to mobilise religious leaders to accompany us to President Yahya Jammeh at his residence in Kanilai to enquire from him about my son (Ebrima Manneh).’’
Chief Manneh’s aging father has been making frantic efforts in search of his son since inception. He said he first visited all the known security detention centres around the country without any trace of his son and had also approached personalities such as the then NIA Director General, Mr Harry Sambou; the then IGP, Mr. Ousman Sonko; the then State House Imam, Abdoulie Fatty and the Vice President Madam Isatou Njie-Saidy to help in the efforts to trace Chief Manneh, but to no avail. The family is calling on the state to mount an investigation into the disappearance of their loved one, because they are very much traumatised about the disappearance.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) based in Accra, Ghana, filed a suit against the Gambia government at the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria on 19 June 2007. The court held several proceedings but since the commencement of proceedings on 16 July 2007, the Government of The Gambia repeatedly failed to appear before the ECOWAS Court after being served with several summonses. While the plaintiffs presented two witnesses from The Gambia who testified against the Gambia, the state failed to secure the appearance of senior Police and Military officers who were subpoenaed to testify.
On 5 June 2008, the ECOWAS Court entered judgment in favour of the missing journalist and ordered the Gambian government to release and compensate him an amount of 100,000 Dollars but still now nothing has been done.
The position of the Gambia Government as expressed by its agents has been inconsistent to say the least. The Gambia government never made any public comment about the missing Journalist until February 2009 when the matter of Chief Manneh was raised in Parliament by the then Minority leader Momodou Sanneh. The then Justice Minister Mrs. Marie Saine Firdaus stated that Chief Manneh had never been in state custody.
However, her successor Mr. Edward Gomez, told Daily News, that Chief Manneh was still alive but failed to give any supportive evidence about his claims. The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Yankuba Sonko at the time also told a local newspapers that the missing journalist is residing in the United States of America, but he also failed to give provide any evidence.
The Solicitor General, in 2008 told Amnesty International Researchers that the government believed Chief Manneh was abducted as it has been claimed, though nobody from the government had been involved.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 3 YEARS NOW:
ALHAGIE MAMUT CEESAY and EBOU JOBE, both are Gambian US citizens, were abducted by known men on Saturday, 22 June 2013 in Brusubi while on holiday in The Gambia. Their family members couldn’t have any clue as to where they are kept.
Family members have been reporting the matter at social media or to human rights organizations to demand justice for their loved ones but there is yet no response from the Gambian authorities.
The two were abducted from the same apartment at Brusubi on the same day. According to family sources, the duo came to The Gambia with the intention of investing in a cashew export business.
A release issued by the Ceesay family indicated that Alhagie and Ebou came to The Gambia to invest and contribute to the Gambian economy. The two had a lease agreement for office space which they rented while in The Gambia.
Mr. Ceesay is said to have completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington (Seattle) and later worked for Chevron Texaco for 11 years as an Infrastructure systems analyst. He recently obtained his MBA in 2013. He is married and has two children.
As for Mr. Jobe, he is said to have graduated from the University of Washington and worked at Wal-Mart as an Operations Manager. He is also married and has three children.
A family source has indicated that the police have been informed and are fully aware of the disappearance of the duo but are yet to come up with any findings regarding their whereabouts.
The US government has been pursuing the matter with the Gambia Government and did raise the matter at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
A former US Charge d’Affaire said at a press conference in 2014 that, “As far as I know, they were picked up and disappeared and we have asked the Gambia Government to investigate.”
He disclosed that they have even offered the services of the FBI to help in locating these two US citizens and added that they will leave no stone unturned in searching for their nationals.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 10 YEARS NOW:
A native of Jarra who was residing in Bonto village in Kombo East of the West Coast Region (WCR) and a former staff of the Christian Children Fund, (now Child Fund The Gambia) MR. LAMIN KANYI (ALIAS KANYIBA), was abducted in the Gambia on 18th September 2006 by men in plain clothes believed to be security agents, including a police officer in uniform in the presence of his family and since then he has never been seen or heard.
According to a family source they don’t know whether Kanyiba is still alive or not. “Both his father and brother have passed away and he has not witnessed any of the burials or 40 Days charity because he was abducted by the agents and nobody knows if he has also passed away or not. His father died while he was in stress due to the abduction of his son,” he lamented.
He added that this is the greatest sadness they had ever encountered in life, adding that their family have been in turmoil since Kanyiba was whisked away.
According to eyewitnesses, Lamin Kanyiba was abducted around 9:00pm by three men who demanded to see him in camera; that Kanyiba then asked them to identify themselves and their mission which they refused to disclose. “The said men in plain clothes then called a taxi driver who was some metres away from the scene. Within a twinkle of an eye, the taxi driver arrived, Kanyiba was forcefully pushed into the taxi and then whisked away in full view of his family, leaving the wife and family in tears,” said a family member.
Another family source disclosed that shortly after Kanyiba was whisked away, his younger brother was also arrested and detained overnight at the Serious Crime Unit (SCU) at the Police headquarters in Banjul but was later released. The family source says that they have been traumatized and are seriously affected by the abduction and disappearance of their loved one since 2006.
Sources add that at the time of Kanyiba’s forced disappearance, his wife was pregnant and later delivered a baby girl who is now 10 years old and attending school.
It was further revealed that Kanyiba’s aging father died shortly after a visit to Kanilai to request for an audience with President Jammeh, audience he was unable to obtain.
His family members also filed a writ of “Habeas Corpus’ at the high court but he was not produced before the court neither was he released contrary to court order.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 11 YEARS NOW
A native of Kinteh-Kunda Marong Kunda in the Central Baddibu District of the North Bank Region (NBR), MR. LAMIN TUNKARA, was arrested on 21st July, 2005, by a combined team, comprising the CID (police), NIA agents and plain clothes officers, behind Albert Market in Banjul. Since then he has not been seen or heard of, up to date.
The family members earlier reported that Mr Tunkara’s house in Tallinding was ransacked by the said security agents who confiscated foreign denominations – CFA, US Dollars and Euros and Dalasi as well.
He was detained at the Police headquarters in Banjul for few days and later at the Kairaba Police Station. His family said while in detention, he was accused of being an agent facilitating the journey of nationals through the “back way” to Spain.
Since he was last seen at Kairaba Police Station up till now family members have no clue of his whereabouts.
DISAPPEARED FOR 10 YEARS:
Three close friends, ALHAGIE MOMODOU LAMIN NYASSI, ex-Chief of Foni Kansala District, NDONGO MBOOB and ALHAGIE BUBACARR SANYANG, District Coordinator of APRC in Foni Kansala, all natives of Bwiam in the West Coast Region, have gone missing and never returned home since they were arrested by men in plainclothes including a senior police officer in 2006.
According to a close family member of the ex-chief Momodou Lamin Nyassi, to their surprise their loved one was not among those released when amnesty was granted and a lot of prisoners were released last year.
“We do not know whether all these 3 friends are still alive or not and nobody had ever came and told us that our loved ones are held. We approached some security chiefs and other government officials to talk to the President to free their father”, adding that some months ago, they have visited both General Saul Badjie and Asobi Bojang (the mother of President Jammeh) so that they can talk to President Jammeh, but that all their efforts went in vain.
According to sources, ex-chief Momodou Lamin Nyassi, Ndongo Mboob and Bubacarr Sanyang were first arrested in 2004 and briefly held at Janjangbureh Prison in CRR but were later released.
He added that the ex-chief was re-arrested in 2005 by men in plain clothes and later arraigned at the Brikama Magistrates’ Court where he was convicted and fined D20,000 which was immediately paid by his family members. He was then set free.
It was reported that ex-chief Nyassi and Mboob were re-arrested by men in plain clothes including a station officer (S/O) from Sibanor Police Station on Tuesday evening, 4 April, 2006, whilst conveying his friend, Ndongo Mboob. The said men approached them and told them that they are wanted at state house. He said the ex-chief told the men in plain clothes to allow him handover his cell phone to his family and immediately after handing it over they were whisked away. “We then visited Sibanor Police station as we were able to recognise the station officer who came for our father. We enquired from him (the SO) his response was that ‘our loved one was not under their custody’ so we had no option but to return home until the following day to continue our search,” he disclosed.
“On the next day, we visited all known security detention centres in The Gambia, including Mile II Central Prisons, Janjanbureh Prison, NIA detention centre in Banjul and the Police headquarters, but we couldn’t trace him and we do not know the condition in which he is held or whether he is still alive. In fact his grand sons and grand daughters are all grownups now,’’ he said.
BUBACARR SANYANG (ALIAS BUBAI), a District Coordinator of 22nd July Movement in Foni Kansala, was also first arrested in 2004 while attending a community ‘Gamo’ (a muslim religious gathering for prayer, preaching and recitation of the Qur’an). ‘‘We were at the ‘Gamo’ when some men in civilian clothes came and told him that he was needed at a meeting in Basse and he was picked up. We were wondering as we did not see him for 3 days but he was later released,” said a family source.
In 2006, his second arrest came on the same day as with the chief and Mboob by three NIA operatives who informed him that he was wanted by someone in higher authority at the state house. The family said Bubai had just finished performing the ‘Maghrib’ prayer when the men came for him. They said Bubai had handed over his mobile phones to one of his wives at that juncture, and then the men whisked him away, adding that up to date they don’t know his whereabouts, or have not seen or heard from him.
DISAPPEARED FOR NEARLY 11 YEARS NOW:
A native of Dobong village, in the Foni Kansala District, JASARJA KUJABI, has disappeared since Wednesday, 27 July, 2005, after his house was ransacked by men claiming to be NIA agents who came in a numberless Nissan jeep with tinted glasses.
According to a family source when they heard the announcement over the TV that some convicted prisoners would be pardoned they also went to the said prison but that Jasarja was not part of those that were released and that they finally left the place with stress and agony. They added that they have visited well known detention centres but couldn’t trace him and that they had also approached the top security chiefs but all their efforts are in vain.
Family members earlier reported to this medium that they have not seen or heard from him since his disappearance in 2005 and that they are still wondering if their loved one is alive. “Since he was arrested by the agents, his absence is really affecting us a lot because we’re facing a serious financial crisis and he was the only financial support of his young family,” a family source added.
According to the family, Mr Kujabi was picked up from his farm and then taken to his house for him to change his clothes. The source indicated that he told his family that he was going but that they should not be bothered and that he was soon whisked away. His situation is still unknown to his entire family after 11 years now.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 11 YEARS NOW:
HARUNA JAMMEH of Kanilai was arrested together with Jisaraja in the same evening. He was put on board the same vehicle with Jisarja and whisked away by the state security agents. Since then these two are nowhere to be seen or heard of, up to date.
DISAPPEARED FOR MORE THAN 11 YEARS NOW: MRS. MASIREH JAMMEH, a former employee at the State House in Banjul and also a native of Kanilai, is still missing since July, 15th 2005. The family said since then they have not seen or heard from her and do not also know where she is being held.
In the next edition we will deal with the categories of detainees who were released in 2016.