By: Yankuba Jallow and Makutu Manneh
The ex-wives of late Lieutenant Basirou Barrow, Lieutenant Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal and Lieutenant Abdoulie Bah have on Wednesday appeared before the TRRC to give testimony in relation to the demise of their late husbands.
They all gave testimony before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday the 27th March 2019.
In their testimonies, the ex-wives of the alleged executed soldiers all said their loved ones were the sole breadwinners of their respective families.
The Wives of Late Lieutenant Basirou Barrow
The first wife of Lieutenant Barrow, Sunkar Yabo in her testimony said she was born in Jarra Barrow-Kunda. She added that she was married to late Lieutenant Barrow for 10 years with 3 children; two were male and 1 female. She said at the time of the execution of late Barrow, the eldest was 7 years, the second was 3 and the youngest was only 9 months. She said she is now a businesswoman.
Mariama Baldeh, the second wife of the late Lieutenant Barrow told the Commission that she was married to her late husband for 5 years and gave birth to 2 daughters for the late Barrow wherein at the time of his death, the eldest was 2 years 3 months and the other was only 5 months old. She said she is a nurse.
Both of the wives testified that they were all living in Bakoteh Layout with their late husband who they described as a caring and dedicated soldier to the nation.
Baldeh in her testimony said on the 10th November, Barrow ate dinner with them and left for her night duties at the Barracks in his Pajero vehicle. She indicated that the late Barrow had on one day told her that the Council has betrayed the promises they made to the soldiers and he was not happy about that.
“On the 10th November 1994, he did not tell me that he had issues with the Council (AFPRC) members. He did not tell me he was up to something,” Madam Baldeh testified.
She said her late husband was not in a good mood and when she consoled him, he told her that the Junta members had made an announcement that they will rule for 2 years instead of adhering to their agreement to hand over to the civilians to rule.
“When the Council (AFPRC) decided to rule for two years, this did not go well with Barrow,” Baldeh said.
On the 11th November 1994, Lieutenant Sanna Sabally made an announcement that there were some soldiers who staged a coup but some, unfortunately, lost their lives whereas others were arrested.
“We all panicked and were confused because there was no means of communication to reach out to him (Lieutenant Barrow),” the witness said.
Yabo told the Commission that she heard the news of the demise of her late husband on BBC’s Focus on Africa programme whilst at Westfield on the 11th November 1994.
“When I reached home, I met many people there,” she said.
She added that on the 12th November 1994, a group of armed soldiers came knocking at their door around 3 am telling them that they came to sympathize with the family.
“When we opened, they told us that they came to retrieve the army belongings that were with our (late) husband,” Yabo said.
She said their house was searched by the soldiers. On her part, Baldeh said the number of soldiers in that group was five. They told the Commission that they recognized one soldier by the name Private Yusupha Ceesay.
On the same, both of them said they were taken to the NIA headquarters for interrogation in relation to the landed properties that their late husband had as well as the purported sacrifice he made at his residence in Bakoteh before embarking on the coup. They told the Commission that their late husband was alleged to have made a sacrifice of a black cow at their residence in Bakoteh. She said when they denied having any knowledge of the purported sacrifice that he was alleged to have made, they were released after a three-hour stay at the NIA.
Madam Yabo in her testimony stated that both Barrow’s father and mother passed away a few months after Barrow’s demise. She said late Lt. Barrow’s parents couldn’t take it because of the bad image with which the junta labelled Barrow with; that he was a bad soldier who wanted to destabilize the country.
“Lt. Barrow’s mother was told that her son went killing people and he was also killed,” Bayo adduced.
Both of them told the Commission that the demise of late Barrow made them suffer very much in terms of providing for their family. They gave narration as to how their children went through education under hardship.
Yabo said after the demise of her late husband, her business collapsed and she opened a restaurant in Serrekunda in a market. She said she sustained eye defect which resulted to the operation of both her eyes.
“Our children were living under hardship,” she said.
Baldeh also gave similar testimony adding that in the year 2000, Captain Edward Singhatey called her and informed her that her late husband’s pajero was with him and that he would send it to the hospital (RVTH now EFSTH) for her to pick it. She said she resigned from her work (nursing) because of fear of the former junta. She said she secured a job at the Stop-Step Pharmacy where she served for so many years before opening her own pharmacy.
In their concluding remarks, the family of the late Lieutenant Barrow requested for the body of their loved one to be produced for it to be accorded a befitting burial.
The Testimony of the widow of ‘Dot’ Faal
Awa Njie, the wife of Late Lieutenant Abdoulie ‘Dot’ Faal’s said at the time Faal was executed, he left their only son at 8.
She said she married to late Faal 2 years before the November 11, 1994, incident. She said she has a son for the late military officer. She told the Commission that after the July 22 coup, her husband alongside some soldiers was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. She said those soldiers promoted included:
She said her husband’s friends were Lieutenants Basirou Barrow, Fafa Nyang, Sait Cham and few others. She said these people used to come to their house at the Barracks and hold private discussions.
“Whenever these soldiers come to our house, I used to excuse them to discuss. Their relationship is cordiality,” Njie said.
On the 10th November
She said these people came to her residence and ate dinner.
“All of the men were soldiers and they were all in uniform. I excused them whilst they held discussions,” the witness said.
She said thereafter, the soldiers left with her husband.
“My husband came late in the night and hogged our son for long before departing,” the tearful witness told the Commission.
She said when Faal was leaving, he told her that he was going to the field.
“After that, during the night I heard multiple shots in the Barracks,” the witness said.
In the morning of the 11th November 1994, she said some soldiers came to her and asked for the armoury keys. She said when she told them she was not having them, those left people left. She explained that it was the time that she went to inquire about the whereabouts of her late husband. She said one Matarr Jobe, a friend to her late husband told her to leave, adding that Faal was arrested and detained at Mile II. She said one of her brothers came and picked her from the Barracks and took her home.
She said she was taken to Farafenni to do the mourning rites of her late husband. Whilst at Farafenni, six soldiers came to her, telling her that they came to arrest her. She said during the discussion with the soldiers, one of them took out a pistol and threatened to shoot her if she fails to cooperate with them. She said they asked about a box that was allegedly in their house but she answered in negative; that it was not in their house.
She said after the demise of her late husband, life became challenging which forced her to become a petty trader.
“I was living from hand to mouth,” she concluded.
The Testimony of an ex-wife of Lieutenant Abdoulie Bah
Matty Sallah, an ex-wife of late Abdoulie Bah has given testimony as to the demise of her late husband and the vacuum it created in their family. Sallah is now living in England with the man who married her after the demise of Lt. Bah.
She said she married to the late Lt. bah in February 1992 and they have only one son.
“At the time he was killed, our son was only 1 year old,” the witness said.
She said her late husband was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant after the July 1994 coup.
She said on the 10th November, her late husband told her that he was going for duties and won’t be coming because he would be the one on duties at the Yundum Barracks.
“Since he left on that day, he has never returned home,” the witness said.
She said late in the evening, two soldiers came to her and collected the ceremonial uniform of her late husband.
On the 11th November, upon hearing the barracks shootings, she decided to inquire about her husband but she was denied access to enter the Yundum Barracks. She said she made several efforts to inquire about him but all efforts weren’t successful.
She said on the following day, soldiers came into their house and carried on a search without her notice because she was at the back cooking.
“When I came, I met them coming out of my room. I asked them what was happening, none of them responded to my question,” the witness said.
She said the demise of Lieutenant Bah, life became difficult for her and her young son, Omar Bah.
“Abdoulie’s disappearance tormented her mother till she died. She lived in pain until the day she died,” the witness said.
She said the late officer had other children with his other wives and the burden for sustenance shifted to the wives.