By Momodou Jarju
The United Democratic Party’s (UDP) Janjanbureh Chairperson Tata Camara, has detailed the inhumane and heinous harassment meted on her and her family by the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 2001.
Testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) yesterday, June 17th 2018, Tata said it all started when she was working at her rice field that one of her children came to her and informed her that a Police Officer was at home to pick and take her to the Janjanbureh Police Station.
Camara, who told the TRRC that she was a stalwart and member of the PPP for 33 years, joined the UDP when it was formed; that she left her rice field and went home to meet the Officer whom she identified as Kemo; that the Officer told her that she was needed at the Police Station which she agreed to; that this was before the 2001 presidential elections.
Tata said the reason for her summon to the Police Station was because they wanted her to abandon the UDP and join the APRC, and that she refused to adhere to their request, which was put forward to her by Major Bojang, a former Commissioner for the Division as it was referred to then. She said she had a good track record with the former PPP regime, but was not a supporter of the APRC party and Government. Camara said she told Major Bojang that she supports UDP and will forever support the party.
According to her, a UDP delegate visited her at Janjanbureh with kola nuts and asked her to be their Chairperson which she agreed to after a thorough thought.
Speaking further, Camara said thereafter, she was released and drove home by Major Bojang when a lot of people from the community started to visit the station. She said Omar Mamburey, Kulu Gibba and Musa Ceesay were at the Police Station when she was arrested; that Omar Mamburey and Kulu Gibba took her one- year old child who was breastfeeding away from her, and put the child on the floor of the station’s veranda. She said her child later got sick and suffered from epilepsy; that she terminated breastfeeding her child when she was released from detention because it could affect the child’s health if she does so.
Camara said three days afterwards, a Police officer she did not know, came to her home, arrested her and took her to the station from where she was later transported to the NIA. She said Omar Mamburey called the NIA office in Banjul and reported her to the agency regarding her political affiliation.
Camara said she was detained for 23 days at the NIA and was locked up constantly; that when she wanted to pee, she would knock on the door where she was locked and it would take time before it was opened. “Sometimes I pee on myself and when I go to the tap, I would rinse my rapper so that I would be able to pray with it,” she said.
While in detention, she said she was not provided with any nourishment until her release on the 24th day; that she wore the same clothes at the time she was arrested. Camara added that the pain meted on her still affects her health, saying whenever she recalls the experience, her blood pressure rises; that she was not charged for any crime and was not allowed visits from anyone to see her, except on the sixth day when she was sick and taken to the hospital for treatment. She said there was only one small window where she was locked for ventilation.
That upon her release, she went to Ousainou Darboe who took her to Dr. Sheriff Ceesay, where she was treated for two days before being discharged and returned to Janjanbureh. She said after the victory celebration of the 2001 presidential election, four of her children were arrested and some were detained for three days; that the eldest of them was sixteen years and the others were fourteen, twelve, and ten years respectively.
She said Seedy Sanneh, the eldest of her son was beaten and gagged at the Police station; that his neck got swollen and could not eat. She said Omar Mamburey, Kulu Gibba and others, arrested her children on numerous occasions; that her properties were destroyed by the same people.
She pleaded for help from the Commission regarding her children, saying only one is working.