By Yankuba Jallow
Omar Fofana, the brother of Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana has testified before the TRRC that the Supreme Islamic Council played a part in the victimisation of his brother.
Omar Fofana, said he is a resident of Sanchaba Sulay Jobe. He said they are origins of Jarra Sankuya. He said he was born in 1976 in Kiang.
He said his brother, Ba Kawsu is an Imam of two different mosques and a scholar who teaches and preaches Islam. He said his brother has a lot of followers. He added that the Supreme Islamic Council did appreciate the teachings and activities of Ba Kawsu.
“In fact, it as a result of Islamic Council Ba Kawsu went to exile in Senegal,” he said, adding that “the differences between Ba Kawsu and the Council was on the citation of the moon.”
He said it is Ba Kawsu’s belief that Eid prayers and the beginning and end of Ramadan should be based on the citation of the moon as stated by their prophet Muhammad. The witness said the Islamic Council wants the Gambia to pray and fast with Mecca on the same day.
He said the President of the Islamic Council Muhammed Lamin Touray invited Ba Kawsu to a meeting. The witness added Imam Abdoulie Fatty, an ex-Imam of the State House, some elders of Gunjur and the executive and other members of the Council among others were present.
He said in the meeting it was disclosed that the meeting was summoned between them and Ba Kawsu to discuss Islamic matters particularly with regards to their difference in the citation of the moon.
He told the Committee that the Council was resentful for the reason that people tend to listen to Ba Kawsu more than they listen to them. He said the meeting was attended by paramilitary personnel and agents of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
“This was planned to intimidate Ba Kawsu,” the witness said.
He said the Council told Ba Kawsu that his cassettes were played countrywide including passenger vehicles, adding that he was influential over.
“Momodou Lamin Touray told Ba Kawsu that the influence Ba Kawsu has in Gunjur (Touray’s hometown) he (Touray) does not have that there,” he said.
The witness said Ba Kawsu was confronted on many issues by members of the Council including his preaching style with the allegation that he was ethnic inclined in his preaching. He said the Council members told Ba Kawsu that he was the one stopping the people from praying on the same day with Mecca.
“The Council members told Ba Kawsu that he was making their work difficult for them,” he said.
The witness said: “Abdoulie Fatty told Ba Kawsu that the President said something has to be done over their difference because people must pray on the same day with Mecca.”
The witness said Ba Kawsu was allowed to reply to their sentiments. He said Ba Kawsu told the Council that he was taught by his father before going to Saudi Arabia. He added: “Ba Kawsu told the Council that it is not only the Gambia that does not pray on the same day with Saudi Arabia on the same day. He told them Yemen shares borders with Saudi Arabia but they don’t pray on the same day. He gave them the names of several countries that do not pray on the same day with Saudi Arabia including Senegal. He told them no matter what they planned to do they cannot change him.”
He said Ba Kawsu challenged the leadership of the Council to ask the former President Yahya Jammeh to buy them tickets to Saudi Arabia to discuss with renowned Islamic jurists over the issue but the Council turned down the request.
“They (the council members) told Ba Kawsu ‘who are you?’ Ba Kawsu told them ‘leave me to be free if you can’t do that,” the witness said.
He added: “Imam Abdoulie Fatty told Ba Kawsu that he will face the consequences of his stubbornness if he does not comply with them.”
He said the Council asked Ba Kawsu to tell the whole world that his preaching about the moon citation was wrong or else he will face the consequence of his failure to comply.
He said Ba Kawsu was arguing with Imam Fatty bitterly because they wanted him to go against his own teachings. He said the Imams that were intimidating Ba Kawsu included Imam Fatty and Ebrima Jarju.
He said the vice president of the Council Oustass Bajang and one Sheriff Minteh of Sanchaba Sulay Jobe urged the Council not to ban Ba Kawsu because he has a lot of followers but the Council paid deaf ears to their advice.
“In the end, Ba Kawsu was banned from preaching,” he said, adding that “Ba Kawsu was given a warning letter from the Council by Imam Abdoulie Fatty. He was banned from participating or organising religious activities including in his home”
The witness said the Supreme Islamic Council was a tool of Yahya Jammeh used to oppress people and they were acting as dictated by the former head of state.
“Ba Kawsu received the letter but he wanted to continue with his preaching. We (his students and followers) stopped him from doing that,” the witness.
He said Ba Kawsu wrote to ex-President Yahya Jammeh explaining his ordeal with the Council. He said the then President invited Ba Kawsu to the State House to a discussion. He said in the ex-head of state invited meeting members of the Islamic Council and some Islamic scholars.
“Imam Fatty told the President that Ba Kawsu was saying bad things about him and his government. This angered the President,” the witness said.
The witness said: “The ban on Ba Kawsu was orchestrated by Imam Fatty.”
The witness denied the allegation by Imam Fatty that his brother was using his platforms to insult the former President.
He said at the end of the meeting the former President spoke negatively towards Ba Kawsu, saying he has satanic knowledge even though the ban on Ba Kawsu was lifted.
“President Jammeh was insulting Ba Kawsu telling him he (Jammeh) is more learned than him,” the witness said, adding that “Yahya Jammeh warned Ba Kawsu to stop insulting him and his ethnic group.”
The witness said Yahya Jammeh told the Islamic to leave Ba Kawsu that he was going to handle him.
“The President was angered by what Imam Fatty told him about Ba Kawsu,” he said.
Fofana said Ba Kawsu was loved by the majority of Gambians, adding that the Supreme Islamic Council members were the creators of the problem between ex-President Jammeh and Ba Kawsu.
“He (Ba Kawsu) has never got trouble with any community, group or persons because of his preachings. Ba Kawsu is peace-loving and he used preach based on the teachings of the Sharia,” the witness said.
The witness told the TRRC that Ba Kawsu continued with his way and he prays on different days with the Islamic Council. He said some of the practices of Ba Kawsu that the Supreme Islamic Council used to condemn included ‘Gamo’.
“The Council will condemn ‘Gamo’ but they used to go to ‘Gamos’ including the ‘Gamos’ of Yahya Jammeh. He has never left his way. He prays and fasts when he cited the moon and not as dictated by the Islamic Council,” he said.
He said Ba Kawsu was arrested on Thursday, 18th May 2012 but it was not related to the Eid prayers.
“Ba Kawsu has never been arrested for praying on a different day,” he said.
To be continued.