By Yankuba Jallow
Lamin Waa Juwara, a veteran politician who had served in both the PPP and APRC Governments, has explained before Commissioners of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), the reason that compelled him to join the former Jammeh administration.
Waa Juwara is the 3rd witness in the second session of the TRRC. He said he was born on the 2nd of October 1943, in Niamina Dankunku village in the Central River Rigion.
Juwara in his testimony, admitted joining the APRC Government in the year 2012, but served only for a few months before he was dismissed from his services as a Minister; that he joined the Fformer Government not to serve Jammeh but the people of the Gambia; that his service as Minister for Local Government and Lands, did not go down well with Jammeh. Juwara adduced that Jammeh was dictating them in cabinet and that he had never accepted him.
When asked whether he regretted joining the Jammeh led government, Juwara responded that it was a question of either joining the regime or die; that Jammeh was angry with him because of what he has done and what he stood for; that personally, he will never ever accept any ill treatment of the Gambian people. Juwara added that Yahya Jammeh was wrong in thinking that he had joined him.
“I was a different person. Nobody would be proud of associating with Jammeh,” he proffered.
Juwara said after his dismissal as Minister for Local Government and Lands, he was arraigned at the Banjul Magistrates Court and charged for neglect of official duties, and was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment by the Court.
Asked by Commissioner Mustapha Kah as to the reason why his party, the National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM), is not alive, Juwara could not provide a clear answer to this, but related his response to the hostility of ex-president Jammeh.
On his educational background, Juwara said he attended Dankunku School from 1951 to 1955, Kaur School from 1955 to 1957 and Armitage High School from 1957 to 1961; that thereafter, he attended the Gambia Teachers College from 1961 to 1964, and attended Sofia University, where he attained a BA and Masters in History, from 1964 to 1970.
Juwara said in 1970, he joined the civil service and in 1971, he joined politics; that he had held political positions such as Commissioner now Governor, of all divisions now Regions, in the country; that he was the National Assembly Member for Niamina Dankunku from 1992 to 1994, and held the position of National Organising Secretary of the UDP and National Secretary General of NDAM. He said despite ex-president Jawara being a relative of his, he had contested twice as an independent candidate where he lost and won one.
On his recount of his arrests and tortures, Juwara said in 1994, the then regime does want any opposition at all; that the AFPRC arrested him alongside some ex-ministers under the Jawara Government, soon after the coup.
“Have you ever made your opinion about the (AFPRC) Government known to the public?” asked Essa M. Faal, lead Council of the Commission.
Juwara in his response said at the time, it was difficult to trust anyone; that it was hard to tell people what you think, even public opinion holders; that after he was released, he was rearrested and detained at the Fajara Police Station for eleven days, and later transferred to the Janjanbureh Prisons. 76 year old Lamin Waa Juwara told the Commission that he had no idea whatsoever, the reason for his arrest; that he is with the belief that the arrests were meant to intimidate; that he was put in solitary confinement for three months. Juwara said although he was put in a small cell and threatened, he was steadfast in his fight against dictatorship; that Momodou Bojang, a former Commissioner of Janjanbureh Division, visited him in Prisons and warned him to stay away from talking to people about the Government; that after his detention, he visited the RVTH where he was hospitalized for some time, and was diagnosed with diabetes.
Juwara said he was also arrested by the Police alongside the Imam of Brikama Alhajie Karamo Touray, in relation to a dispute about the Brikama Mosque; that on their way to Mile II, Baba Jobe and his boys stopped and assaulted them; that they broke his finger during the attack; that the aim was to kill him but some soldiers intervened and rescued him. He said Baba Jobe was working for Yahya Jammeh and not Government; that Baba Jobe was part of the system that had created problems for the people of the country. On the conditions at Mile, Juwara described them as ‘very bad’. ‘I was put in the same cell with the Imam and we were made to sleep on the floor,” he said; thaty he met Sanna Sabally at Mile II and were in the same wing.
Juwara said in the year 1996, he was again arrested and detained for thirteen months at the Janjanbureh Prisons. He explained that he was first detained at the Fajara Police Station, then Yundum Police Station and finally at the Janjanbureh Prisons. He described the Prisons at Janjanbureh as overcrowded; that he was never charged or arraigned before any Court of law. He admitted before the Commission that he had written a letter to ex-president Yahya Jammeh that resulted to his release. He said his arrest was done in pursuit of denying him access to contest in the 1996 presidential elections; that the Junta was aware of his plan to contest as a presidential candidate, and that they also knew he had a strong backing.
“I was tortured. I incurred certain wounds from thees beatings. In fact I was molested,” he said.
He said he was tortured by an ex-commissioner of former McCarthy Island Division, Momodou Bojang; that Bojang before leaving the Gambian for the US, apologized to him at his residence in Brikama for the torture he inflicted on him.