By Momodou Jarju
The police officer who was on guard in the fateful night the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) Bureau was set ablaze has testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Monday.
Born 9 June, 1985 and hailing from Kiang, Alpha Touray said he completed his training on July 10, 2012, and was given the rank of Police constable. Thereafter, he said he was posted at Manjai Police Station. But he swapped his posting with a colleague due to his far location.
He lived in Sanyang village and was later transferred to Jidda Police Station in Brikama where he stayed for five years.
Touray said he was later transferred to Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) for couple of years before he was asked to follow Lamin Tabally, Sub-Inspector, who said officers were needed at the APRC political bureau.
He said his senior Fulo Mbaye, asked him to follow Tabally to the bureau where he was deployed to serve as a sentry.
He said he was not told about the mission and when he got there, he met two female police officers, Kaddijatou Jallow and Adama Mbaye. The two female officers were members of the Gambia Police Force. He said the two female officers later went home, leaving him and Tabally to spend the night at the bureau up till the morning when he went home.
He said the following day, he came to work and Tabally told him that he was the only one to spend the night there. Up to that time, he did not know why he was asked to go there.
He assumed they were brought there to guard the place and arrest any person who intends to attack the place or so.
Asked whether he remembered what happened on 14th August 2016, Touray, who was Monday’s second witness at the Truth Commission, responded in the affirmative.
“Yes I can say around 3am I was there and suddenly I heard a noise which I could not understand. I heard the sound of a vehicle. So I went outside to confirm what type of vehicle it was. After I did that, it is as if someone said look behind you. When I looked behind I saw two people standing behind me and they said to me if you move we will shoot you,” he said.
He said two people came to him and told him if he moves he will be killed. He begged for them not to kill him.
“Then they said to me come over here. I came and they kicked my feet off the ground and then they dragged me. They took me behind where the flashes are and packed me there.”
He said the people he saw outside in the vehicle were three and two were inside- they were the ones who threatened to kill him if he moved. They were in mufti and wore combat boots, he observed, adding that he did not recognize them because their faces were hidden with mask.
Touray said as soon as the unknown people spoke to him, he knew that they were soldiers and not civilians.
“Because they told me if you move we will shoot you,” he said.
Speaking further, he said the vehicle he saw outside was red in colour. He said when the vehicle arrived, all of them alighted and he saw one of them brought out a gallon and placed it on top of the vehicle.
“After they took me behind they removed my trousers and then tied my legs. They removed my belt and they tied my mouth as well. They took my shirt, took a knife and torn it and they tied my hands behind my back. So I was lying on my back. When I tried to stretch my legs, they would hit me on my knees. They would use the blunt side of the knife to hit my knees.”
He said he was stripped naked and left there and a knife was held at his throat and they threatened to slaughter him if he tried to move or shout.
“They said to me we are terrorists, anybody who loves Yahya Jammeh, we will kill you,” he said.
He added: “We were there and all of a sudden someone was communicating I do not know whether he made the call or he received the call, but he was talking to someone and said to the person that the situation was under control.”
Touray said once the men started the fire, they all went away and left him there. When asked how they started the fire, Touray said he overheard one them say ‘give me the spark.’
He said he did not know what was inside the gallon the men brought on the ground.
“I saw the burning and I could not understand. That time they ran away so I also tried by all means to escape,” he said.
Touray said he made efforts and he untied his hands, after he took out his trousers and replaced his belt.
Thereafter, Touray said he scaled over the fence and ran to the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) headquarters and reported the matter. He said PIU officials went to the scene to examine the situation.
He was later taken to Kanifing police station and he wrote his statements where he was asked to sit behind the counter. He was later called to the CID office where he was questioned. One Pateh was among the CID officers who questioned him, he said.
He said he was later transported to NIA on a pick-up with three others, adding that they seized all their possessions at the NIA and ushered them inside.
Not long after, he said Sheikh Omar Jeng a sergeant called him in and interrogated him about the incident. He said Jeng asked him whether he knew that the burning of the bureau will lead to Yahya Jammeh losing the election. He said he responded in the negative.
He said after the conversation with Jeng, he left to sleep because he was sleepy. In the morning, he said one lady called Jarria Badjie was brought to the NIA. Touray said Jarria told him that he was a soldier.
He said Alagie Badjie also a soldier was brought to the NIA in connection to the incident, someone else was arrested, Matarr Ceesay. Tumani Jallow, Ebrima Sonko, Kaddijatou Jallow and Adama Mbaye were also arrested and detained at the NIA. Tumani Jallow was wearing all black- a uniform known to be worn by ex-president Jammeh’s hit-squad, also known as the “Jungulers.”
His testimony continues.