By Yankuba Jallow
Nineteen years after he was shot by state security agents during a students’ demonstration on 10th April 2000, Sainey Senghore said on Tuesday the previous government was responsible for their ordeal.
He said on the 10th April, students in the urban area demonstrated and were shot by the paramilitary resulting to the untimely death of 14 people including a Red Cross volunteer and on the following day (April 11), students in the provinces also demonstrated. He said the students demonstrated demanding for justice for their colleague students, Ebrima Barry and Binta Manneh. He said Ebrima Barry was tortured by personnel of the Gambia Fire and Rescue Service while Binta Manneh was raped by paramilitary officers at the Stadium.
On 11th April 2000, he said he went to school at Essau Senior School to sit for his biology examination paper but he was told that the examination wouldn’t hold because there was an ongoing students’ demonstration.
The resident of Barra said while he was on his way home after getting the information that there was no examination, students in Essau were demonstrating demanding for justice for their two colleagues. He said he was with his friends going home (in Barra) because there was no examination, leaving the other students who were demonstrating behind them.
He remarked: “We were just in front of the students demonstrating because our distance was not far. Initially, I was not part of the demonstration, but later on, I joined the demonstration,” he said.
He said he joined because he thought what happened to Ebrima Barry could have happened to him. He said when they came up to Barra, they found a police check point with about ten armed personnel.
“They started opening fire. Initially they did not shoot directly at us but after two to three shots, they started shooting at us. I was shot on my leg and I couldn’t walk and I fell down. I shouted for help,” the witness said.
He said he was helped by a nearby landlord who came together with some students who hid in his compound.
“I started feeling dizzy. I started feeling unconscious,” the witness said.
He said the landlord took him vie the back way to the Essau Health Centre because the security officers were on the highway.
“I was losing too much blood and the Essau Health Center contacted my family and referred me to the Royal Victoria Hospital,” the witness said.
He said he regained consciousness after two days.
“I was told by the doctor who operated me that I was taken to a theatre and the bullet was removed from my leg. He said five of my blood vessels were cut, but he managed to repair them,” the witness said, adding that the doctor was an Egyptian.
The witness told the TRRC that he sustained multiple bone fracture.
“The distance between me and where the bullet was released was not far and this caused the fracture,” the witness said.
He said the hospital staff used to administer 10 or more injections on him per day because the doctors said the injection was going to help in the flow of blood to his legs. He told the TRRC that he shared a ward with patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital including one Abdou Karim Jammeh who was shot on his knee making it impossible for his knee cab to rotate until today. He said another victim in the same ward was one Assan Suwareh who was under Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Hospital because he was shot on his stomach. He said Yusupha Mbye was shot on his neck and he became paralyzed from his neck down to his legs.
“For 19 years, he is still sitting on a wheel chair,” the witness said.
He said Yahya Jammeh came to the hospital to visit the victims, but he pretended that he was sleeping because he did not want to talk to the ex-President because he was responsible for his condition. He added that there was a day when one Fatoumata Jahumpa Ceesay came with provisions such as juice and biscuits from the Office of the President.
“I told my mum (mother) to give it away because I felt that the protection of our life was more important than bringing us provisions,” the witness said.
He said in August 2000, a Commission of Inquiry was setup by the government to probe into the April 10 and 11 Incident.
“It did not meet me in The Gambia because I was already in Egypt,” the witness said, adding “but the government passed the Indemnity Bill meant to immune the perpetrators from prosecution.”
He said there was a medical board setup which recommended for them to go overseas for treatment, adding they were taken to Egypt for treatment. He said the first medical board recommended that there was no need for overseas treatment, but a second medical board recommended that they should go for overseas treatment. He said he went to Egypt together with Assan Suwareh and Yusupha Mbye.
“I went to Egypt in June 2000,” he said, adding that they were all seventeen years old.
He told the TRRC that none of them travelled with their family members even though they were minors. He added that the nurse who went with them left them there and came back to the Gambia one week later.
“We were there alone,” the witness said.
He told the TRRC that the Egyptian doctor they went together with was present during his operation.
“In Egypt, I was given a paper to sign consenting to the operation in the theatre despite being a minor,” he said.
The witness said the operation lasted for about 8 hours and five of his toes were amputated, the multiple fractures on his leg were repaired and the blood vessels were fixed.
The witness was born on the 26th July 1986 in Lamin Village in the Kombo North District.
By Yankuba Jallow