By Momodou Jarju
Mbemba Barry, a police sub-inspector working at Farato Police Station, Tuesday told the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that the death of Ebrima Barry had caused pain to his parents and as a result, they passed away later.
Ebrima Barry, 19-year-old then was a secondary school student of Foster School in Brikama. He was allegedly mistreated by firefighters at the Brikama fire station which is believed to have caused his death.
Mbemba, who is the elder brother of Ebrima, said their parents endured lot of hardship after Ebrima departed from this world because it affected their health.
He said his father, Alieu Barry, was very sad because he loved Ebrima very much, saying their father at some point lost composure and died two years after the death of Ebrima.
“Sometimes he would be speaking to himself,” he said.
Similarly, Mbemba said Ebrima’s mother, Botu Sanneh also felt sad and lost her composure. As a result, he said Sanneh died a year after her son’s death.
He said he was saddened by the news. “Myself, I felt sad because Ebrima respected me,” he said.
He said Ebrima was a well-behaved and not a troubled child. “He respected elders and no one has come to complain about Ebrima’s behavior,” he added.
Mbemba alluded that the Government did not do anything for their family after the death of their son and brother. Asked whether the government compensated and/or apologized to the family, he responded in the negative.
According to him, the authorities were aware of Ebrima’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. He added that he heard some people alleged to have been involved in the death of Ebrima were arrested, but he did know whether they were taken to court.
Mbemba said he was at McCarty in 2000 around 12 at night when his co-worker informed him that his father called and said his half-brother, Ebrima Barry died. The following morning, Mbemba left McCarty for Brikama to attend the funeral, but before he reached Brikama, he got information that burial had been conducted. He attributed his lateness to the deplorable roads.
He said while heading to their home, he saw students pelting stones at the Brikama Fire Station, describing the scenery as chaotic.
“When I arrived at the family compound,” he said “vehicles were parked outside and people were many inside and many of them were crying.”
Thereafter, Mbemba said his father Alieu Barry called him inside the room and explained to him that some people came to the market where he was and told him that his son, Ebrima, had a problem with one of his teachers and he was taken to the fire station.
He said his father went to the fire station and saw Ebrima squatting and crying, adding the fire officers told him that they would not let Ebrima go unless they shave his hair.
Quizzed whether that would be punishment, Mbemba responded in the positive.
Narrating further, Mbemba said his father told him that Ebrima was made to carry bags of cement by the fire officers. According to him, Ebrima was in a tiring condition.
“When he (Ebrima) came, he was not himself. He could not zip his trousers and he was crying. That is what my father told me,” Mbemba explained.
Before the incident, Mbemba said Ebrima was looking fine and well. He recalled that two days before the incident, he was in Brikama on a family visit when he saw Ebrima.
“As I was about to leave for McCarty, Ebrima came to me and beg for D150. I told him ‘you wait until I am about to leave and you told me this’. So, I gave him D100. He told me they have a picnic next week,” he revealed.
Mbemba said when he returned to McCarty, he learned that Armitage students were also protesting, saying the students broke the glasses of the Gamtel outfit and spoiled the telephone booths at the region. He said some of the students were taken to Janjanbureh prison.
He further said he also heard that at Westfield, in the Kanifing Municipality, there was protest and he “heard that some were injured, some shot, some died and some hospitalized.”
Mbemba explained that the right procedure was not followed at the Janjanbureh prison. Giving the procedure for children suspects, Mbemba said either of the parents of the child should be present when the child is asked to make a statement before taken to court for trial.
On the contrary, Mbemba said Janjanbureh did not have a juvenile wing at the time and the students were interrogated in the absence of either of their parents, adding they were not taken to court and they were sent to an adult prison instead of a juvenile wing at Old Jeshwang.
He said the students were arrested by soldiers who took them to the prison, which he said, was not their responsibility. He said that this role should have been performed by the Police.
Born in Bwaim on June 6, 1972 to Alieu Barry (father) and Sainabou Cham (mother), Mbemba said upon completing secondary school in Form 4 at Brikama School, he travelled to Sweden where he spent six months, but returned to The Gambia later.
He said his father had three wives (namely Botu Sanneh, Fatoumatta Jadama and Sainabou Cham) and about 13 siblings.
He was testifying in connection with the death of Ebrima Barry’s death which happened in April 2000. Mbemba said he joined the Gambia Police Force in 2000. He said their family was residing in Brikama in 2000.