By Yankuba Jallow
A former police officer has on Tuesday told the Truth Commission that he was demoted after refusing to take the concussion offered by the Yahya Jammeh’s witch hunters in January 2009.
Former Sergeant Mustapha Ceesay said his demotion came about when he refused to go with the witch-hunters to Baba Jobe’s compound in Kotu to take the concussion. He said he was identified as a wizard by the Yahya Jammeh’s squad of witch – hunters on the 13th January 2009.
“I was demoted from Sergeant to First Class Constable. The IG – Ensa Badjie alias Jesus said whoever does not comply will be dismissed,” he said.
Former President Yahya Jammeh brought some men from Guinea Conakry dubbed ‘witch-hunters’ in 2009 who roamed different parts of the country and gave people concussion who were identified as witches. It is alleged that many had health complication as a result of the concussion while others died.
The 45 – year – old said on Wednesday, 13th January 2009, he went to the Police Headquarters where he was working. He said he was told by Inspector Yusupha Saine that a day before, that a group of witch-hunters came to the police headquarters and took down the names of all those who were present. He said Saine told him that IGP Badjie ordered that everyone should attend the morning parade on January 13.
“The purpose of that order was to ensure that everybody attends the parade without an excuse,” he said.
Ceesay said the morning parade took place at 8 am on the 13th January 2009. He said RSM Abdou Colley told the parade that the IG has an important message to deliver to them.
“After his usual briefing, he told us that President Yahya Jammeh sent some people to the headquarters that were going round screening officers to determine who the witches were. He told us that this was to ensure that they are all loyal to his government. He asked us to return at 10 am. He told us that we will be screened and we will take oath of allegiance to him (Yahya Jammeh). He told us that no one should come late.”
He denied the testimony of RSM Abdou Colley that IGP Ensa Badjie wasn’t present at the first morning parade.
“IGP Ensa Badjie was present at the first morning parade and he personally talked to us.”
He said the witch – hunters came with a green vehicle from the State House under the escort of the military.
He said five witch hunters all in red clothing came with Solo Bojang and three to four State Guard soldiers, adding that he saw five drummers, four to five members of Yahya Jammeh’s green boys. He added that some of the military officers who escorted the witch-hunters were in plain clothes.
The Kantong Kunda born said before they came, they were paraded and briefed by former IGP Ensa Badjie alias Jesus about their coming.
He said IGP Badjie addressed them and told them President Yahya Jammeh sent witch – hunters to screen them.
“He told us that whoever is found will go with them and drink the concussion. He told us that if the person identified is not a witch, he/she won’t die and nothing will happen to them but if they are witches then they will die. He told us to comply and whoever fails to comply will be fired. He also told us that we will take oath of allegiance at the shrine they built at the police headquarters. Once he finished addressing us, he make a signal and these people came.”
He said they were asked to open up their parade to allow the witch – hunters to move in the lines.
“Counsel, this was funny. They were running from one corner to another and they will just point at a person. The rest of them were also running among us and they were shouting. Once they started, the green boys started beating the drum and they were singing.”
“Their (the witch-hunters) leader had a cow tail and a plate. In the middle of the plate is a mirror and small mirrors all over it. There was cowries shell all over the plate. At the circumference of the plate it had cow tail around it. Their leader had beads around his neck,” he said.
He said the leader was running in the middle of them and would stop randomly.
“He was running from around and he will randomly stop and point the tail in his possession at someone and he will be asked to join the people identified as witches.”
He said while the witch – hunters were carrying on with their activity, the green boys were drumming. The photos he took then were tendered and marked as exhibits.
He said: “When this was ongoing I had my mobile phone on because I knew there was going to be trouble as backup. I was taking their photos and I went to the balcony to take the rest of their photos.”
He said he was identified as a wizard together with about 40 people.
“So many officers were identified including Effaray Jammeh and so many cleaners,” Ceesay said.
“I was reciting the Quran. He passed me and turned back and pointed at me. I asked “do you mean me” he nodded. I moved out of the parade angrily.”
He said after this, IGP Badjie instructed Ken Mendy, a police officer to take their names.
“Solo Bojang was technically coordinating everything. He was standing with the IG (Jesus),” the witness said.
He said they slaughtered a red goat and a cock and the police were called to come and take their oath.
“Effaray Jammeh was ordered to slaughter the goat while the IG slaughtered the cock. The goat and the cock were taken away and a bottle of concussion was buried at the police headquarters. The superior officers were asked to come first and I was standing watching them take their oath at a satanic shrine,” he said.
He said the policemen and women were lined up to take their oath of allegiance to former President Jammeh at the shrine at the police headquarters.
“I did not know what they were saying because I was not close to them,” he said.
He said the witch – hunters proceeded to the Fire Services but they were denied access.
“The entire police headquarters was very sad. Everyone was in angry mood,” he said.
He said through his investigation he came to know the witch- hunters came from Guinea and he was able to confirm that they were brought by Yahya Jammeh.
“I heard IGP (Ensa Badjie) saying the President brought them from Guinea. I was told President Jammeh brought them after the death of his aunty and two of his close personal protection officers – Musa Jammeh, Tumbul Tamba among others,” he said.
He said on the following day, on Thursday 14th January 2009, RSM Abdou Colley brought the list and their names were called to go, but he refused to go.
“I told him I am not going. He told me it is the IGP who gave the orders. He (the RSM) left and came back around 10 am for the second time and told me that I have to go with him.”
He said on Friday, he wrote his statement and left it in the computer indicating why he refused to go. He said when he went to the morning parade, the IGP instructed the RSM to come with the list.
“When the RSM brought the list, IGP took it and he was calling our names. If he calls any person, he will ask the person to board on the truck until when he reached my name.” He said he refused to board the vehicle.
He said after submitting his report to the IGP, he was told by IGP Ensa Badjie alias Jesus that he disrespected the orders of President Yahya Jammeh. He said on the 27th January 2009, he was charged with disobedience to orders and discreditable conduct. He added the charges were written by one Sergeant Ali Joof under the instruction of RSM Abdou Colley. He said he was charged alongside one Inspector Yaya Darboe, but Darboe’s charges were dropped. He said according to the particulars of offence he refused orders to go to Baba Jobe’s compound in Kotu for him to be washed. He said though he pleaded not guilty to the charges, the Officer Commanding the Human Rights, Superintendent Madinding Fatty who presided over his case, found him guilty on both charges. He said he was referred to the IGP for punishment who demoted him to First Class Constable and ordered his transfer to Fatoto Police Intervention Unit (PIU).
“At the time, First Class Constable was the lowest and Fatoto being the farthest place and full of challenges as a punishment,” he said.
He explained that his family was stigmatized including his school going children by their colleagues.
He said he was told by his colleague officers who went to Baba Jobe’s compound that the July 22nd boys were torturing old women.
“They saw them beating them and pouring water on them telling them “Atolu mu buwaleti” meaning they were witches. They were not only beating them but pouring water on them,” he said.
He said when he visited his grandmother, he saw her ran at the back attempting to climb over a fence.
“I rushed to her and announced myself to her. She was trembling and she was 85 at this time. I was told that the neighbours were threatening her that Yahya Jammeh’s witch – hunters were coming. My grandmother told me she prefers to die than to take their concussion. She said she has lived her life in the most dignified way and she has never been labeled a witch and therefore, she preferred to die than been called a witch,” Ceesay said.
He said he was told by an official of the Ministry of Finance that his aunty was raped multiple times by the green boys after drinking the concussion. He said the official told him that his father had a kidney problem as a result of the concussion. He said one Sergeant Jahateh, a PIU officer was beaten severely after he attempted to defend his father from taking the concussion.
He said some of the abducted people were taken to Kanilai. Ceesay gave a detailed testimony on what he was told happened in other communities in Foni, Kombo and Nuimi areas as a result of Yahya Jammeh’s witch-hunting exercise.
He said he resigned from the Gambia Police Force on the 31st March 2009. He said the Inspector General of Police refused to give him his discharge certificate for five (5) months. He said the then IGP gave orders to the then head of the PIU, Bakary Sanneh to arrest him, but he quickly picked a job with the British Embassy.
He said Ensa Badjie was appointed Inspector General of Police sometime in 2008. He said he used to work under Jesus who was the station officer in 2004 /05 at the Serrekunda Police Station.
He said after his peacekeeping mission from Sudan, he found Ensa Badjie appointed as the Inspector General of Police. He said in a meeting with Badjie, they were told to be loyal to Yahya Jammeh.
“He (Ensa Badjie) said promotion in the Gambia Police Force was going to be based entirely on loyalty to President Jammeh. He said no officer was going to be promoted unless you are loyal to President Jammeh. I found this insulting,” the witness said.
He said he was promised by the IGP that he will ensure that he establishes a system for strategic analysis and report at the Gambia Police Force. He said this came after he presented samples of the strategic report that was used by South Sudan Police and UN police. He said this entailed their performance, evaluation and compliance. He said he was promised promotion to the rank of assistant superintendent of police by the IGP which never materialized.
Ceesay was enlisted at the Gambia Police Force on February 1, 2004.