Saturday, July 31, 2021

April 2016 Demonstration Victim Recounts Incident Before TRRC

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By Nelson Manneh

One of the victims of April 14, 2016, demonstration which turned out hostile to the demonstrators has last Thursday 17th December, 2020, testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) and recounted how events unfolded.   

Lamin Sonko, who is a member of the United Democratic Party (UDP), informed the Commissioners that the dubbed UDP demonstration was organized by the late Ebrima Solo Sandeng, who was also a member of the UDP.

Mr. Sonko, who appeared before the Truth Commission in connection to aforesaid demonstration, said he is also the chairman of New Jeshwang constituency.

He said prior to their demonstration, Solo Sandeng bought mobile phones and 10 SIM cards and gave them to the heads of the demonstration.

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The witness said they commenced their demonstration at ‘Bambo’, Serrekunda and head towards Westfield. They were more than 20 people, according to him. 

Mr. Sonko recollected that during the demonstration, one Abdoulie Sanneh, a police officer, came with a white Pickup and asked him who their leader was. He told him it was Solo Sandeng and the police officer attempted to arrest him, but he refused. 

The witness said when he reached at Westfield, he saw a truck full with PIU officers. 

“The PIU officers then started to arrest us and they forced us to climb their vehicle. During the process, someone slapped me,” the witness said. 

The witness said about 26 of them were arrested and detained at the PIU Headquarters in Kanifing. 

“Nogoi Njie told the PIU officers that ‘we don’t want Yahya Jammeh and he should go,” he said. 

“Yankuba Sonko, the former IGP and current Minister of Interior ordered for us to be taken to Mile 2.”

Witness Sonko said the Late Lamin Marrong, Ebrima Jabang, Alasana Beyai, Ebrima Jadama, Fatou Camara, Nogoi Njie, Lamin Fatty among others were all part of the 26 people arrested by the PIU officers. 

Testifying further, the witness said from Mile 2, they were transported to the NIA headquarters by the officers where their statements were collected.

While at the NIA, Sonko said one fat officer asked him why they were demonstrating. He told the officer that he was exercising his constitutional right. 

He also said one of the officers at the NIA headquarters identified him as the UDP flag bearer because the said officer saw his photo posted on the freedom media platform. 

“The officer then poured a bucket of water on me and start to beat me using a vehicle fan belt and hose pipes,” he said.

The witness said all of them were beaten, including women who were arrested together with them. He said they were later transferred to Jeshwang prison.

There, the witness said one of the NIA officers told him if he, Lamin Marrong and Solo Sandeng mistakenly enter the NIA premises again, they will regret it. He said shortly after their release, Marrong passed away.

Witness Sonko said Marrong told him that the day he was tortured, one of the officers put his finger inside his mouth and told him that he was poisoning him. 

Mr. Sonko recollected that while at the NIA, the leader of the UDP, Ousainou Darboe, was also brought and provided with mattresses. But he said Ousainou Darboe asked the officers whether all the detainees were provided with mattresses too. The officer responded in the negative. 

Thereafter, Sonko said some of his colleagues were taken to court while others were discharged.

The witness said he did not regret the actions they took in April 2016 because they were exercising their constitutional rights.

Meanwhile, the public hearing of the commission is being adjourned to 28th December, 2020. And the Truth Commission had heard 309 witnesses since the beginning of its public hearings on 7th January, 2019.

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