By Mamadou Dem
Ousman Jammeh, the erstwhile deputy Minister of Agriculture under the former Jammeh regime, disclosed to the Minister of Justice and the Technical Committee on the proposed Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission that he was arrested and detained unconstitutionally by officers of the defunct National Intelligence Agency ( NIA).
Mr. Jammeh was speaking at the Bakau Community Centre on the 8th day of the nationwide tour. “I was detained at the former NIA headquarters in Banjul for one year, three months without charge,” said Jammeh.
According to him, when his family was in search of him, they went to the said headquarters but were told that he wasn’t there. Mr. Jammeh further alleged that prison authorities kept their eyes on sick prisoners and only consider them for treatment when they are in coma. He said numerous human rights violations were perpetrated under the Jammeh regime. He therefore suggested for the victims to be members of the TRRC.
The former Minister adduced that Prison authorities gave him coos mixed with sand as food while other prisoners died in Mile II after eating a dead bull. He suggested for victims to be involved in the Commission.
He finally opined for the technical committee to visit prisons in the country before the commission comes into force, adding that the law should take its cause on perpetrators.
Mr. Ousman Yarbo, Executive Director of TANGO stated that the “Mashlaha” syndrome has spoiled the country. Mr. Yarbo said he was concerned about the mode of compensation to victims. He said the country needs proper civic education to enable citizens to be more acquainted with their rights and responsibilities.
The Tango boss further said there should be a time frame on the operations of the commission. “We cannot afford to lose this and we can’t afford to make mistakes. We should not allow what happened for the past 22 years to happen again,” he said.
Madam Adama Jallow of Bakau recalled that three women including herself were detained in Jangjanbureh prisons without committing any crime. She said the state should bring back Jammeh and parade him at the Macarthy Square in Banjul.
Mr. Karamo Jadama disclosed that he was arrested in Farafenni on the day of the 1994 Coup. “Few days after the coup, I was in Farafenni when soldiers storm my house and took me to Farafenni Barracks and asked what I know about the coup. But I told them I knew nothing. They told me that I invited people to recite the Quran in order for the coup to be foiled. I responded in the affirmative,” he narrated.
He added that he was later allowed to go home but was again picked up while observing Friday prayers (Juma) and whisked away to State House in Banjul. “I was consequently transferred to Police headquarters in Banjul where I was detained for 6 days without charged.”
Kaddy Bah Sidibeh, former APRC youth mobiliser intimated that in November 2015, she was arrested with her lactating child. “When the NIA officers came to arrest me, they advised me to handover my child but I told them my child depends on me for survival (breast feeding). I was taken to NIA headquarters with my child for allegations that I filed asylum in a foreign country,” said Mrs. Sidibeh.
“I was advised by one woman working at the NIA not to allow them to take my child from me because if I do so I will stay longer in detention. I was warned by the then NIA director not to explain my encounter with them to anyone and if I do, I will face the consequences,” she disclosed. “The late Sukuta Jammeh facilitated my release.”
Dr. Lamin Sidibeh warned Gambians to desist from tribalism; that the commission about to be established should look like a “People’s Centre” where you will have Rastafarians and even “Ndongo’s (Young people).
He said reparation should be for both the victims and culprits. Therefore compensating victims is paramount. “This is not a Jola, Mandinka or Fula business but rather it is for us to reconcile, forgive and forget,” said Basirou Gassama. He implored on those constituting the commission to work hand in glove and avoid unnecessary criticisms and move the country forward.
Miniseter Tambadou in his closing remarks thanked the community of Bakau for the large turnout and contribution towards the establishment of TRRC. However, he urged them to discuss with other communities who were not fortunate to attend the session, especially the culprits, on the intention of the commission.
Responding to concerns, Tambadou clarified that government will not and does not have the power to force any victim or victims to forgive perpetrators. He did not dispute the fact that as Justice Minister he has the bulk of work ahead but was quick to say that with the cooperation from the general public, the work that lies ahead will be very feeble on him.
He finally noted that the information gathered so far shows that Gambians are one people because of the various expressions given for the formation of the commission.