By Yankuba Jallow
The wife of late Almamo Manneh, a former State Guard Officer has on Wednesday testified before the TRRC about her victimisation by security personnel.
Binta Jamba alleged that she was raped over 60 times by Ousman Sonko, a former Minister of the Interior under Yahya Jammeh’s regime. Sonko is currently under detention in Switzerland. Several witnesses before the TRRC have all alleged that Ousman Sonko was key in the murder of Almamo Manneh.
Jamba was born 15th February 1968 in Banjul and graduated from the Crab Island in 1986. After her completion of school, she joined the Police in July 1986 and completed in January 1987. Upon completion, she was posted to Police Headquarters in Banjul.
Death of Her Husband
She said in January 2000 she was living at Old Atlantic with her husband and it was a residence for the soldiers. She said she came to know about her husband’s demise on the Gambia TV. She added that the last activity she had with her late husband was on the 12th January 2000. She said on this day, she went with Manneh to receive the money that one of her brothers sent her at Sonko Jileng to buy a vehicle for his father.
She said on this day, she passed through Landing Sanneh’s Office waiting for her husband to go and receive the money. While waiting in Sanneh’s office, the witness said her late husband came in, angrily complaining to Sanneh of the accusation against him, at the CDS’s office, that he was plotting a coup against former President Yahya Jammeh. She said at the time Manneh made this complaint to the State Guard Commander Landing Sanneh, the then Permanent Secretary Sarja Taal was present. She said her husband was accused of instructing the soldiers to stand down because former President Jammeh was at Kanilai.
She said before leaving the State House, she saw Ousman Sonko, Ismaila Jammeh, Musa Jammeh among other soldiers hiding behind a big tree. She said her late husband removed his beret and began hiding, but Baba Jobe came. She added that Jobe cracked a joke between him and her late husband.
At this juncture, Almamo told the driver that he was just from Army Headquarters and would know what was going on at the State House. She said Almamo took out D20.00 and gave it to one Ba Sainey Jammeh to buy him a plastic bag. D103,125.00 was the sum sent to her to buy the car. She said they proceeded and received the money.
She said after 5 pm State Guard Commander Landing Sanneh went to their home and sat at the parlour.
“Almamo told Sanneh that he is getting tired because since Yahya Jammeh went to Kanilai, he doesn’t call him directly; instead he used people or send the message through somebody,” the widow of Manneh said.
According to her, Manneh told Sanneh that Jammeh needed a Pumping machine from Amadou Samba, but the message was communicated to him through someone else. She said the following Friday, Almamo was supposed to be off duty but they put him on duty. She however added that prior to going to the State House, he went to his compound at Batokunku and returned home around 22 to 23:00 hours.
After he had bread and tea, all of a sudden Almamo heard a telephone call from Abdoulie Kujabi and it was Almamo who told him it was Kujabi that called; adding that, that day was when Almamo escorted Zeinab Yahya Jammeh who was coming from either Guinea Conakry or somewhere else.
“Yahya Jammeh promised to buy Almamo’s groundnuts and hay as well because he wanted to use the groundnuts as seeds while the hay would be given to Jammeh’s cattle in Kanilai. Ousman Sonko called Almamo and told him that he was given money by Yahya Jammeh to hand over to him (Almamo),” Jamba adduced.
She said Almamo went with one Sheriffo to receive Zeinab Jammeh from the airport and later continued to the State House. She said at around 3 am, while she was still in bed, she received a call from Landing Sanneh, the then State Guard Commander whose house was attacked and he wanted reinforcement from Almamo.
“I told him that Almamo went for his duties at the State House,” she said.
She said one Lamin Ceesay, a soldier knocked on her door and counselled her not to open her door for anyone and she shouldn’t talk to anyone on the phone.
“I did not go to bed again. I kept on sitting down till daybreak,” she said.
She added that as she opened her door she noticed an unusual presence of soldiers. She said plain clothes soldiers were mounted at her resident monitoring her movements. She added that she went to Gambia Ports Authority and told her boss that she can’t work for that day because she did not know anything about her husband.
Mrs. Jamba explained that she later took a taxi after she was informed that soldiers had broken the door to Almamo’s bedroom. She said when she arrived, she found Ousman Sonko’s vehicle and they did not allow her to get into the house. She said she saw that Almamo’s uniform and military boots were put in a plastic bag. Among the soldiers present at their house were Ousman Sonko, Kawsu Camara and Paul Bojang.
She said she later received a note from her mate given to her by Ousman Sonko stating that he (Sonko) received D35,000 from Almamo’s bedroom. However, the witness said the only money she had then was the money she received from Sonko Jileng and never saw the money again.
“I did not know what happened to the money but I took a taxi and went to State House and upon arrival at the State House, to inform them that the money they took does not belong to Almamo,” she said.
She said she wanted to tell them that the amount stated on the receipt wasn’t correct. Nonetheless, she said when she got to the State House and asked to see Ousman Sonko, the soldiers stopped her and told her that Ousman Sonko said he can’t see her. She told the Commission that she insisted to see Ousman Sonko but the soldiers denied her entry. She added that Mam Biran Senghore pleaded with her to go home and look after her children.
She said while at home, she received a called from Paul Sambou, a former bodyguard to Zeinab Jammeh who told her that he has also been calling Almamo but can’t reach him and as soon as he arrived at State House, he was arrested.
One Bakary Dampha, a soldier also told her that he has been trying Almamo but can’t reach him and he did not eat or drink. She said later she called Almamo’s number but somebody received the call whom she later found out to be Ismaila Jammeh, who told her that Almamo was in a meeting in Kanilai and he will call her back.
The witness said Bakary Dampha later called another number but this time, former President Yahya Jammeh picked the call and asked him who he was and he responded that he was Sergeant Dampha. She added that when Dampha informed former President Jammeh that Almamo’s family were worried about his whereabouts, Jammeh told him that they should listen to GRTS at 6 pm.
She said the moment Dampha stepped out, Kawsu Camara alias Bombardeh suddenly appeared.
“I was terrified because I thought they were going to kill us,” she said.
At 6pm, the witness said GRTS announced that Almamo Manneh and Landing Sanneh wanted to overthrow Yahya Jammeh’s government and during the shootouts at Sting Corner, Almamo lost his life.
She said Paul Bojang led a group of soldiers who informed her that Ousman Sonko said she should vacate the house and that she should not go with anything. She said at this time, her children were very young.
She said one early morning, she went with Almamo’s brother to State House and explained to them that she wanted to see Sonko and at the same time needed the corpse of her husband but all of a sudden, Musa Jammeh passed her there and asked her what she was doing there and later he entered.
She said she later saw people running in different directions and she hid around the McCarthy Square Fence until they passed. She said she saw blood in the soldiers’ truck and she was informed that one Dumbuya was killed.
She said Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungo told her that Almamo’s Corpse was at the Mortuary but when she inquired about it, she was told it was never taken there. She added that one day, Malia Mungo told her that Almamo died in the course of his duties and his corpse won’t be handed to her. She said this information made her weep and on the same day, soldiers were following her wherever she goes to.
She said there was a day when Sonko told her that he wanted to see her and her mother. She said Sonko asked her whether she spoke to the media about the demise of her husband, but she responded in the negative; adding that Sonko told her that she should not speak to the media.
“At this time, he was in possession of a Pistol,” she said.
“Musa Jammeh sent soldiers with two Military Trucks and they took 150 bags of cement and over 300 corrugated sheets, tiles, toilet seats and other building materials,” she said.
She said two weeks later, Sonko went back but this time, she had already begun mourning the demise of her late husband. She said this was around 8 pm, adding that her children were terrified.
“Anytime they see soldiers they used to run and my eldest son was running away from the soldiers and was trampled by Ox-cart and as a result he had a brain injury,” she said, adding that Sonko told her that he wants to see her.
She said Sonko was armed with a pistol and he touched her breast.
According to her, Sonko did not contact her until after her mourning period and when she reported for work, Sonko sent a soldier to inform her that she should go and meet him at State House.
Upon arrival at the State House, the witness said she was escorted to Sonko’s office and he locked his office and took a brief case and told her he wanted to give her Almamo’s Personal belongings and gave her Almamo’s bank book and compound documents.
“Sonko placed his hand on my shoulder, kissed me and later told me to sit on his lap,” the witness said.
She alleged that Ousman Sonko forced to have sex with her inside his office at State House. She said on a Friday the same week, Sonko went to their home and demanded to see her in her room.
“While we were there, he (Sonko) placed his shoulder on me again and later threw me on my bed and placed his pistol on my bed head. Sonko used to point his pistol at me and warned me not to talk to the media. He also warned me that he did not want to see any man in my house. Sonko raped me. He made it a routine and would get to me every time he wanted. This went on for one year and some months,” the witness alleged.
She said Sonko kidnapped her and put her in a room in Banjul for two days. She said all this while, Sonko used to sex her in that detention room. She told the Commission that she requested transfers from her workplace but anywhere she went, Sonko would still follow her until she got asylum to the United States of America (USA). She said she left The Gambia in 2003.
She said in 2005, she came back to The Gambia to look after her sick child but was caught by Sonko who at this time was the Inspector-General of Police. She told the TRRC that Sonko took her to the same room in Banjul where she was raped and had sex with her again. She said before Sonko had sex with her, he beat her severely and in the process, he was asking about who spoke to the Independent Newspaper about Almamo’s vehicle. She said Sonko seized her Gambian passport and forcefully had sex with her. She said she was helped by a soldier who Sonko sent to bring food for her to escape through the back door of the house. She said she took a town trip and crossed to Senegal.
In 2007, she came back to The Gambia and someone by the name Dawda Ndour went to her home, greeted her and told her that he was sent to arrest her and the order was from Sonko and their compound was surrounded by NIA officials and told her that he can’t arrest her because she was like a sister to her.
She said Dawda Ndour then advised her that she should hide and she was put behind her mother’s cupboard so that they wouldn’t be able to see her. Fortunately when Dawda left, her uncle arrived and eventually drove her to Darsilameh and she spent the night at the Sheriff’s (Scholar’s) house. She later travelled to Zinguinchor and later called Ousman Sonko, telling him about the bad deeds he did to her.
“Sonko has raped me more than 60 times,” the woman said.