By Momodou Jarju
Lamin Jobe, who is currently an admin officer at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, said Ebrima Barry,19-year-old student grade 10 then, was mercilessly beaten by fire fighters at Brikama which resulted to his death a day after the mistreatment.
The former school principal and one time a member of Gambia College sub-student’s union as information minister, said the death of Ebrima Barry occurred on March 9, 2000 and when he heard about it, he inquired and found out that he was killed by Brikama firefighters.
Born on 11 November 1970 at Bwaim, West Coast Region, Mr. Jobe said the death of Ebrima Barry was a disciplinary issue between himself and his commerce teacher Mr. Paul.
He said they held an emergency meeting including Alieu Khan, the president of the college sub-students’ union, Alagie S Darboe, vice president GAMSU, and several other members of the students’ union of the college and the main students’ union (GAMSU).
He said he led a team to inquire the circumstances surrounding the death of Barry, a student at Foster School, and they went to Brikama Police Station to lodge a complaint. He said the police station assigned a CID Officer to them.
Jobe said they went to Foster School to inquire about the death of their colleague and the master welcomed them and gave them the forum to address the students of the school upon their request. Thereafter, he said they had an interview with Mr. Ajawo, Ms. Camara (class teacher of Ebrima Barry), Alagie Giyana (friend of Ebrima), and Alieu Barry (father to Ebrima).
Jobe said Mr. Ajawo told them that Ebrima fought with his commerce teacher, Mr. Paul and after the incident, Ebrima was asked to go home.
Jobe revealed that Mr. Ajawo said Ebrima came to school the following day so he (Mr. Ajawo) went to the fire fighters “to only come with him to go to the school and escort Ebrima out of the classroom and be handed in his suspension letter and he (Ebrima) went with the fire officer.” According to Jobe, Mr. Ajawo’s reaction to the death of Barry was regretful.
He said thereafter, the father of Ebrima (Alieu) pleaded with Mr. Ajawo to forgive his son which was granted.
“Because according to Ajawo when they went through the record, they found out that he was not unruly as they thought. So, the father succeeded in pleading with Mr. Ajawo. He accepted and then he was asked to come back after Tobaski because then it was very close to Tobaski,” he said. He said Ebrima’s class teacher corroborated what Mr. Ajawo said.
Jobe said Ebrima’s friend Alagie Giyana told them that: “They were sitting at the back of the classroom when Mr. Paul (commerce teacher) entered the classroom and asked them to relocate from where they were sitting at the back of the classroom to come in front. When they came in front, they sat where the sun has its rays. According to Alagie, Mr. Paul asked him to relocate and left Ebrima where he was. So, Ebrima complained that it is because the sun had its rays there, it’s going to be impossible for him to sit there because it is affecting his eyesight.”
Jobe said Alagie said Ebrima insisted and a heated debate ensued. Suddenly, Jobe said Alagie told them that Mr. Paul confronted him and Ebrima could not hold it and then punched him on the face thus, a fight broke out.
He said Alagie on 8 March 2000, he went to visit his friend in the late evening and found out that Ebrima was maltreated by fire officials, hot water poured on him and forcefully shaved.
“He found Ebrima was in pain. Ebrima was crying. His voice was not even clear to hear and he (Alagie) started asking him what went wrong. And then Ebrima started telling him that he was beaten mercilessly and his hair was forcefully shaved off,” Jobe said.
He said Alagie told them that Ebrima kept saying he was going to die but he kept telling him that he would not die. But the following day, he heard about his death.
Jobe said the father of Ebrima Barry, Alieu Barry, narrated things the same way like Ebrima’s friend. He said when Ebrima’s situation worsen due to the mistreatment meted out to him by fire officials, his father (Alieu Barry) said he knew his son ‘died’ before he was transported to the hospital.
Mr. Jobe said they reported back to the executive and students of the college, noting the mood of the students were frustrating and they were all worried. Thereafter, they called for a peaceful protest due to the lack of investigation of Barry’s death by authorities.
“I briefed the students’ executive about our findings and we came to a conclusion that we should go on a peaceful demonstration so that a wakeup call would be sent to the authorities because up to that time there hasn’t been any arrest that has been effected in connection to the death of Ebrima Barry, we were made to understand… so the need to march to the commissioner’s office at the time, Kebba Ceesay and equally, the charity that we collected at the college level would also be given to the family house from the commissioner’s office then we would have paid our condolence to the family. That was exactly what was discussed in that meeting on the 20th of March,” he said.
Jobe explained that the march was to start at the gate of Gambia College to the Commissioner’s office and thereafter to Ebrima Barry’s house where they would give the charity, they collected from students at the college to the family of Ebrima Barry.
On Wednesday on the 22 of March, he said they held a demonstration. Asked whether they provided any information or asked for a permit from the authorities prior to their demonstration, Jobe responded in the negative.
Jobe remarked: “We gathered at the gate of the college, I could remember the then PEO at Region 2 Mr. Kakai Sanyang coming out at the regional office finding out as to why we are gathered there and what we are about to do and we told him exactly what we wanted to do and he started pleading with us that we should not go ahead with the demonstration rather we should take time and listen to them and see what was going to happen.”
He said they defied that and proceeded with the demonstration, assuring Mr. Sanyang that it was a peaceful one.
Read Foroyaa tomorrow for more of Lamin Jobe’s testimony.