BY KEBBA MAMBURAY
Witnesses testifying before the Faraba Commission, sitting at Faraba Banta yesterday, told the Commission that the PIU fired on them upon their arrival. The witnesses that testified are all residents of Faraba Banta, namely Ms Kaddy Touray, Aja Sanyang, Wonto Kujabi Samateh and Bakary Badjie.
The Commission also visited the sites as well as the demarcated, destroyed and burnt places in the village. According to the Chairperson of the Commission, Mr Emmanuel Joof, this is the third visit of theirs to Faraba Banta. He explained that they visited Faraba well before they were sworn in as Commissioners to express their condolences to the families of the departed souls.
The first to testify was Ms. Kaddy Touray. She said she was in her garden on the day of the unpleasant incident around 12pm when she heard a public address system saying that Julakay has resumed sand mining. According to her, she said she went to the quarry with the villagers. She explained that the portion where mining is taking place touches some of the portions of her rice field.
She testified that, if they (villagers) should allow the continuation of mining at the site then they will not be able to cultivate their rice fields. Afterwards they moved to the village and assembled in one place and they saw a reinforcement of paramilitary. Kaddy said they welcomed the paramilitary by chanting, “Welcome, paaral naatalleh” in Mandinka language which mean means, welcome the paramilitary are here.
Then all of a sudden, she said, tear gas canisters were fired at them, which hit her chest; she then inhaled the gas and became unconscious and left for home. According to her, there were paramilitary stationed at Faraba Banta before the coming of the reinforcement.
She explained before the Commission that she saw loaded trucks with sand but she didn’t see any obstruction on the access road for the trucks. She added that whilst sitting by her door, she saw five paramilitary coming with guns and batons. When she saw them coming, she said she was wandering whether they were going to the Chief’s compound but they rushed towards her then she ran inside her house and locked herself in. Then, she said, one of the PIU personnel asked her to open the door but she refused; that the PIU personnel then broke her doors open and destroyed her windows and told her “today we will have sex with you to our satisfaction.” “I was deeply insulted by the PIU” she said. But later, she said, she ran away through the back door because the PIU told her that they were going to kill her.
Meanwhile, Aja Sanyang a native of Faraba Banta also testified before the Commission that on the 18th of June 2018, around 7am she heard the noise of the excavator, and all of a sudden she saw a lot of people (villagers) going towards the mining site. Then she said she heard them saying “we are going to the quarry but we will not fight or cause any violence”; that she then went to join the demonstrators that were standing near the village football field. She narrated that they were sitting and chatting with the PIU who were already stationed there before the 18th June, when they heard someone saying, “the PIU are coming” in the Mandinka language. She added that the PIU came through the back way then as they drew nearer, the PIU wielding shields, guns and batons fired on tear gas canisters on them.
Later, she said, she heard a gun shot and that shot hit one Bakary Seyfo whom she said she saw falling and later was taken away by the youths. She added that before Bakary Seyfo was shot, she saw one Sainey Sonko injured.
She further said, after the PIU fired tear gas canisters into them, many people retreated to their various houses, then that was the time the PIU started chasing people up to their houses. So she said she was telling them, “save lives and property but do not kill”. She added that she was standing on the veranda but upon seeing the PIU coming for her, she ran away and left her mother sitting on the veranda; that one of the PIU personnel then came to her mother and told her, “old woman get inside the house before I kill you.” She said her mother then responded, “kill me that’s what I want but I will not leave this place”; that the PIU left but as they were leaving, she heard one of them say, “these are bad people we should kill them all”.
Wonto Kujabi Samateh also testified before the Commission that the rice field used to have a lot of water during the rainy season but now there is no water in the rice fields due to the mining operation of Julakay. She further told the Commission that last year even though rainfall was not plenty the rice fields still retained water but due to the mining water is no longer retained in the rice fields but empties into artificial ponds caused by the mining.
Meanwhile Bakary Badjie also narrated his ordeal to the Commission. He explained that on the 18th June 2018, he was sitting his house brewing ataya, later did he saw three PIUs coming towards his house, then they arrested him and took him to their trucks and along the way they started beating him seriously one of them hits him in his back around his waist. Adding that when he got to the truck, he saw one journalist too whom was beating by the PIUs and later he pleaded to the PIUs to take them to the hospital because he was so much in pain.