Saturday, April 4, 2020

“I was detained for 5 years, 4 months & 2 weeks,” Says Ex-Navy Officer

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By Yankuba Jallow

Mahmoud Babadi Sarr, an ex-director of administration at the Defense Headquarters said he was detained for over 5 years incommunicado by APRC regime.

“I was left to languish in cell for 5 years, 4 months and 2 weeks at Mile 2,” the witness said.

Ex-Lieutenant Sarr appeared before the TRRC on Tuesday, 3rd March 2020 in connection to his detentions by the former regime under the Presidency of Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh.

The 59-year-old was arrested twice after the 2006 coup plot was foiled.

The Banjul born said on December 2005 he came from a peacekeeping mission in Darfur, and went to report to Colonel Ndour Cham’s Office to report to him and this was when Cham disclosed to him he want to remove former President Yahya Jammeh.

“He (Ndour Cham) pointed at the photo of Yahya Jammeh and said MB (Mahmoud Babdi) we are ready to remove him (Jammeh),” the witness said, adding that “I was shocked but I did not respond to him.”

The resident of Kerr Sering said he did not report Ndour Cham to the authorities because in those days one can get trouble by reporting suspected crimes.

He said he was working with ex-CDS Ndour Cham at the Defense Headquarters in Banjul, adding that he was the Director of Admin.

“I have unfettered access to his (Ndour Cham’s) office,” he said.

The witness said one day Ndour Cham told him “if I have the chance I will kick (remove) him (Yahya Jammeh).”

The witness said Ndour Cham couldn’t have succeeded in his coup plot because he was new CDS and did not have a strong a base.

The witness said he was supposed to go with the deputy CDS, Lang Tombong Tamba to Darfur to visit the troop there but the trip was put on a hold because the ex-President was travelling abroad. He said Lang Tombong Tamba informed him that he does not want to leave the country when former President Jammeh travels. He said this was in March 2006.

He said on this day, Bunja Darboe was nominated to attend a seminar in Burkina Faso. He said in the evening, he found Bunja Darboe and their finance officer Baldeh in Ndour Cham’s office.

“My purpose of going there was to obtain permission from my boss (Ndour Cham). I was there waiting for Ndour Cham to leave before I left. Ndour Cham was at his office until after working hours and this was why I decided as a junior officer to seek permission from him before I left,” the witness said.

He said the following morning he was called by Joseph Jassey, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense.

“Jassey told me that he was called by former Vice President Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy that she observed unusual troop movement and Jassey was inquiring,” the witness said.

He said after going around Senegambia area, he called Jassey and told him he did not see any unusual troop movement. He said at night of the same day, he was arrested at his house by security operatives including soldiers in the presence of his wife, two children and nieces. He said he recognised Ismaila Jammeh, a member of the Yahya Jammeh’s squadron of killers who were commonly known as the ‘Junglers’. He said his phone was taken away and up-to-date he hasn’t been given back the phone. He said he was taken to the Fajara Barracks and later moved to Security Wing number 5 of Mile 2. He said at Mile 2 he found Alieu Jobe, Alieu Ceesay, Tamsir Jassey, Yaya Darboe, Bunja Darboe, Musa Savage (a State Guard Officer) and others.

He said Abdoulie Kujabi, Alpha Bah, Wassa Camara, Lie Conteh and some others were tortured at the NIA.

He said the following day he heard over the radio that some people were arrested for attempting to stage a coup. He said from that day, the radio was taken away from them. He said they were taken before a panel headed by Momodou Hydara (deputy director of NIA), Lang Tombong Tamba (acting CDS), Baba Saho (NIA), Demba Sowe (police officer working at the Serious Crime Unit), Musa Jammeh (soldier), Tumbul Tamba (soldier), Alagie Martin (military officer) and some of the Junglers including Momodou Jarju alias Rambo, Ismaila Jammeh.

He said Lang Tombong told him that he knew that “I was not part of the coup but he asked me to explain what I was know about the coup”. He said after he explained to Tamba what Ndour Cham told him, Ismaila Jammeh hit him on his head with rubber truncheon but was quick to add that it did not have serious impact on his head. He said at this juncture, Momodou Hydara told him to speak up or else he will speak at an inconvenient time. He said after this encounter, he was returned to Mile 2. He said he was brought back to the NIA on another day but on their way to the NIA, one of the Junglers hit him on his noise and he was bleeding. He said his statement was recorded by Musa Jammeh.

“I was not tortured at the NIA. I think what saved me was what Lang Tombong said he knew I was not part of the coup,” the witness said.

He said there was a particular day when soldiers came to the NIA and were calling names of soldiers who were supposed to be released. He said this was on their eleventh (11th) day of detention. He said they were taken to the NIA and Harry Sambou, the then Director of NIA addressed them in an open space.

“Harry Sambou said they have concluded their investigation and they found out that we were not part of the 22nd March 2006 coup plot,” the witness said.

He said they were asked to report to their work places. He said he returned to the Defense Headquarters and continued as the Director of Admin.

He told the Commission on the 19th April 2015, he was served with a letter with the heading compulsory retirement. He said he was retired compulsorily and a day later, he was served with another letter nullifying the compulsory retirement letter. He said on the 20th April 2015, he was served with a letter of dismissal signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Joseph Jassey and he purportedly relied on section 12 (c) of the Gambia Armed Forces Act to dismiss him from the Gambia Armed Forces.

He said four years later, in March 2010, two personnel of the NIA came to his residence and asked him to go with them to the headquarters to make some clarifications. He said he was detained for four days at the NIA. He said on the third day of his detention at the NIA, he was brought before a panel headed by Sukuta Jammeh, the then Director of Operations at the NIA.

He said he was arrested together with Sarjo Fofana, Antouman Saho, Wally Nyang and others.

He said Sukuta Jammeh informed him that he was told by Ndour Cham that they were supposed to take out charity for the coup which was supposed to be dumped in the sea. He said Sukuta Jammeh told him that Ndour Cham said he (the witness) was obliged to drop the charity in the sea.

“I told them that it wasn’t true because I left the Navy in 2004 and the incident happened in 2006. It was not possible for me to leave my workplace and go to the Navy like that because the Navy has a command. I told them that it does not happen like that in the military. That was the end of the questioning and I was asked to write my statement,” the witness said.

He said he was taken to Mile 2 the following day. He said this was on a Wednesday. He added that on Saturday, he was moved out of Mile 2 and taken to the NIA where he was tortured by the Junglers. He said he recognised Momodou Jarju alias Rambo among his torturers.

“They were beating me in turns. Momodou Jarju was not taking part in the beating – he was coordinating them,” the witness said.

He said his torturers realised that he was wearing thick clothing.

“They removed the clothes and they began beating me on my bare back,” the witness said, adding that “as a result, I suffered from lacerations.”

He said his tormentors were using sharp objects to torture him. He said after torturing him, he was taken to Mile 2 Prison. He said Sarjo Fofona was also taken to the same room and was tortured by the same squad of torturers. He said Fofana was subsequently charged.

“I was left to languish in cell for 5 years, 4 months and 2 weeks at Mile 2,” the witness said.

He said he was released together with some prisoners pardoned by former President Yahya Jammeh in July 2015.

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