By Yankuba Jallow
3 survivors of the 1998 Brikama central mosque incident that resulted in the arrest and prosecution of 10 have on Thursday, 23rd January 2020 testified on their victimisation as well as their colleagues.
74-year-old Jerreba Touray, 64-year-old Abdoulie Sanneh and 48-year-old Alfusainey Touray appeared before the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to narrate their ordeal in the hands of the paramilitary and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Jerreba was born in 1946 in Brikama and he resides in Brikama. Abdoulie was born on the 3rd January 1956 in Brikama. He said he was an accountant but from 2004 to date he has not been working owing to his health issues. He said he has worked at the Brikama Area Council as a revenue collector. He said his last employment was with Bottrop School as a bursar.
Alfusainey was born in Brikama on the 8th April 1972 and now resides in the United States of America. He said he worked at the NIA from 1996 to 2003 when he was sacked. He said he is a civil servant in the USA. He said he is the son of the late Imam.
Sanneh in his narration said in 1998, members of High Park, a construction group came to the Imam of Brikama Alagie Karamo Touray and told him that they want to erect the fence of the mosque. He added that constructors were given D10,000 by Tuti Faal, the former wife of ex-President Yahya Jammeh. According to the witnesses, the purpose of the construction was to extend and upgrade the fence.
He said the constructors were all members of the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).
“The constructors were active members of APRC and they used to participate in their political activities,” Sanneh said.
The witnesses said the Imam allowed the construction to start, but told them (the constructors) not to touch a particular area because it was where the elders used to sit.
“The Imam emphasized to them to leave the place where the elders of the community used to sit and the High Park assured the Imam that they won’t touch the place,” he said.
He added “when the Imam travelled, the constructors erected two pillars at the place where the Imam prohibited them from doing.”
The 74 – year – old Jerreh said the Imam informed the constructors (High Park) before they commence the work that any work that is done at the place will be demolished. He said while the Imam was away, the constructors built two pillars at the place. He added two elders of the community of Brikama Karamo Banna and Basansan Sanneh told them to stop the work at the place, but the workers were adamant and they continued with the work.
Jerreh said: “I was the one who informed the Imam when he returned from his trip about the activity of the constructors. I went with the Imam together with Malang Kalifa and Abdoulie Sanneh and demolished the two pillars that the constructors built at the place where the elders used to sit.”
Alfusainey said the members of High Park were all from Brikama. He said the chairman was late Malang Ida Bojang and the members included the late Chief Dembo Keleng Bojang, Alkalo Lamin Mondo Jatta and many other supporters of the APRC.
“They (the High Park) were influential in Brikama,” he said.
Abdoulie Sanneh said after bringing down the structures, they performed the noon prayers and went home. He said he was arrested by the paramilitary after performing the sunset prayers.
“There were a lot of paramilitaries. They were all armed,” he said.
He said the police also arrested the elders who told the constructors to stop their work including Basansan who was at the time in his 90s. He added one Bakary Jatta who was the eldest of the Jatta kunda clan was 85 and was having eye and ear defects.
Jerreba and Abdoulie said Ba Pateh Bojang was the one identifying the people the paramilitary should arrest. Jerreba said the son of the Imam also named Jerreba Touray was also arrested for asking the paramilitary their reasons for arresting his father.
Alfusainey said late Daba Marenah was part of the officers that arrested his father.
“They were telling my father to go with them, but my father refused. Late Daba Marenah asked them to grab and take my father away, but the police were able to convince him and they went together,” Alfusainey said.
He said after his father was taken to the police station, he was told that he was under arrest and he was asked to board the paramilitary truck where the other arrestees were sitting.
He said he witnessed his father’s arrest at the mosque and when they left, the paramilitary came back for him.
“I was arrested at home around midnight. Two paramilitary trucks came home and said they were looking for me. When I came out, they told me I was under arrest and they took me to the police station,” he said.
Jerreba and Abdoulie said they boarded a truck and were taken to the Banjul Police Station. Sanneh said at around 2 am, they were moved to the State Central Prisons – Mile II.
“We were put in confinement. They removed the planks therein and we all slept on the bare floor,” Sanneh said.
Sanneh said they spent 22 days under detention.
Ba Jerreh said the police did not tell them reasons for their arrest and they weren’t charged with any offences.
“The statement takers told us we pull down a part of the mosque,” he said.
Abdoulie Sanneh said Ba Jerreba forgot the incident because of his old age.
“We were not told anything. Our statements were not taken. We were only put in the cell and at around 2 to 3 am we were taken to Mile II,” he said.
He said they found Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and Lamin Wa Juwara and some senior security officers from the Prison Department in the cell.
“We were taken to Confinement 4,” he said.
Alfusainey who was 26 said after his arrest, he was taken to the Brikama Police Station.
“One officer Nfamara Jallow asked me to do “monkey dance”. I did this “monkey dance” for a long time until I couldn’t stand. I attempted to do the dance until I couldn’t do it anymore. Nfamara told me ‘you people feel that you own Brikama’,” he said.
He said after “monkey dance” Nfamara asked them to take him behind the cell and punish him. He said after the torture, the paramilitary brought in Lamin Wa Juwara who was at the time bare footed.
“I saw them hitting Wa Juwara with their weapons,” he said.
He said Jallow was the Station Officer at the time. He said before he was taken to Mile II, he was taken back to their home and the police searched his house but they did not find anything.
“They broke the door of my father’s house and they searched the house. They found a gun and it was taken away,” he said.
He said on their way to Banjul, the vehicle was stopped around the Denton Bridge by late Baba Jobe and some people who were hiding in the bush.
“Wa Juwara was pulled out of the vehicle. They began beating Wa Juwara on the tar road. They beat him until he couldn’t speak anymore,” he said.
He said Juwara was bleeding and his finger was broken by the tormentors (Baba Jobe with 3 others).
He said Baba Jobe was part of those who tortured Wa Juwara and one Modou Pika Jallow. He said the driver of the vehicle was Pa Njaga Mendy.
Ba Jerreh said the planks were removed and the place was very dirty.
“We found it difficult to sit or lie down. I sat at one place and slept till morning,” he said.
Alfusainey said both his father and his elder brother were diabetes patients.
“My elder brother died immediately after our release,” he said.
He said they were served with only one meal in their entire detention at Mile II. He said they were arraigned before the Kanifing Magistrate’s Court on the eleventh day of their detention. He said they were arraigned at 6:30 pm and the matter was transferred to the high court in Banjul. He said the 10 of them were charged jointly with the demolition of the mosque and conspiracy to commit that crime. He said after 9 months of trial the court discharged them of the offences as alleged. He said the matter was moved to the Brikama Magistrate’s Court because it was the court that had the jurisdiction and not Kanifing. He said they were discharged by Magistrate Lamin Darboe.
Jerreba said as a result of his detention, he cannot work now while Sanneh said he contracted diabetes and he lost his job.
“I lost my lands. Since 2004 to now I am just sitting down,” Sanneh said.
Alfusainey said: “My brother was admitted at Dr. Ceesay’s clinic in Kololi after he was released by the security and he never returned home – he died.”
Sanneh said the Imam was amputated twice and he died as a consequent of the second amputation in 2010. He added that Bakary Jatta and Basansan suffered from a disease and they both couldn’t survive it and died.