By Momodou Jarju
A former principal of Brikama Ba Upper Basic School, Tuesday told the Truth Commission (TRRC) that they were emotionally broken when they saw his student at the gynaecology unit of Royal Victoria Hospital after she was allegedly raped by PIU personnel.
Merican Samuel Joseph Mend said: “We were emotionally broken when we saw Binta at the gynaecology unit at RVTH.”
Mendy said 13-year-old Binta Manneh was raped while she was on a mission to represent their school at an athletics competition.
. Her rape case and the alleged mistreatment of Ebrima Barry by firefighters at the Brikama Fire Station led to demonstrations by students in April 10 and 11 2000, after the authorities failed to investigate the two incidents.
Born in Kasiwa on 13th January 1963, Mendy said prior to April 10 and 11 demonstrations, his school sent a team to participate in an inter-school sports competition held in Bakau. He said the team comprised three teachers (Ebrima Bah, Abdoulie Barrow and a lady he could not recall the name) plus students he could not name all.
He added: “And in that team is a girl. She was then in grade seven and her name is Binta Manneh.”
The veteran educationist explained that Mr. Bah who was on the ground with the students, told him that Binta said she was raped by two men.
“The teacher on the ground told me Binta told him that these two gentlemen were in uniform and that is the normal blue uniform of the paramilitary,” he said.
Testifying further, Mr. Mendy said: “He (Mr. Bah) informed me that he has reported the case at the Bakau Police Station and that they have got Binta to the RVTH (now Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital) and that she was admitted.”
Asked how he felt about the news, he said he felt bad and emotional, adding that Binta was a talented girl and she went to represent the school in the long-distance events.
“I think that was not proper for such a thing to happen to such a young innocent girl like Binta. I felt the school has been a victim,” he added.
Thereafter, he said he went to Binta’s home in Brikamanding with someone whose name he could not remember and told the family about what happened to Binta. He said the family of Binta felt devastated, saying “You could see it in them especially the father.”
Mr. Mendy said he received the information on a Saturday evening from Mr. Bah who told him that Binta was raped the night before (Friday).
Mendy said he decided to travel to Kombo the following day in the morning (Sunday) and the father of Binta agreed to go with him.
“Upon arrival, we first went to Bakau Police Station where we were told the case was reported and there I found Mr. Bah; and then we asked as to how far the investigation had gone and we were told the investigation was in progress but no arrest had been made at that time,” he said.
Mr. Mendy said he did not know the name of the police officer they spoke to but later on, he learned from Mr. Bah that two police officers were handling the case. One of them was called Azis Bojang.
At this juncture, the witness said it was already late so they could not go to the hospital to visit Binta as planned until the following day. “So, in the morning, we went to the hospital,” he said. He added that he was with Binta’s father and Mr. Bah.
Mendy said they were emotionally broken when they saw Binta at the gynaecology unit at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, formerly (RVTH), saying they noticed that she was in pain.
He said he spoke to the nurse at the hospital who confirmed that Binta was raped, noting there was penetration and some traces of semen was found during the checkup. Binta remained at the hospital under the advice of the nurse to ascertain whether she conceived or contacted HIV.
Mendy further explained that they were informed that a medical report was being prepared and when it was done, they would inform them. Also, he said the Police kept saying they were investigating the case but they never got the report.
Mendy said a parade was organized for Binta to identify the officers who raped her, but she could not identify any of them. Prior to that, Mr. Mendy said he was skeptical about the idea because the incident occurred at night.
Thereafter, Mendy said the school persuaded Binta’s parent to allow her to continue schooling after she was released from hospital and they agreed. But it was short-lived as Binta was removed from school.
“The school felt a great lost. Binta could have been an international athlete because she is a talented child,” he said.
The rape case has caused Binta serious impact, according to Mendy, noting she lost her virginity and her image in the community was destroyed. “The consequences were very devastating,” he added.