By Yankuba Jallow
The National Assembly member for Tallinding has on Tuesday testified before the TRRC with regards to her victimization, as a result of a demonstration organized by organizing secretary of UDP Solo Sandeng and others on the 14th April 2016.
Fatoumata Jawara was arrested together with several people on the 14th April 2016 at Westfield for unlawful assembly and riot among other offences. They were charged and convicted on those counts to a prison term of 3 years. Their ring leader allegedly died as a result of the horrific torture that he went through on the 14th April 2016. Jawara, as well as other victims, still suffer from the pains of the torture at the NIA.
She said she is still suffering as a result of the gruesome torture that she underwent during her stay under the custody of the State at the NIA. She said she was poured cold water and beaten at the NIA which sent her temporally on a wheelchair. She said as a result of the torture, she was unable to walk by herself without aid.
She said on the 14th April 2016, as she was coming from school and upon arrival at Westfield, she saw some of her party militants gathered; adding that there was a mixture between the police and the party supporters and there was a push and pull between the supporters and members of the security. She said the protesters had some slogans for electoral reforms while paramilitary personnel were dressed in their riot gears. She said one of the paramilitaries chased her and after catching her, she was put in a truck.
“They just threw me in the truck and when I asked, they slapped me,” she said.
The witness said all the arrested protesters including herself were taken to the PIU Headquarters. She said they were 22 including Falang Sonko, Ndogoi Njie, Fatou, Camara, Kalilou Saidykhan and two students. She said they were not told the reasons for their arrest.
She said from the PIU headquarters, they were transported to Mile II where they were briefly detained and she was later transferred to the NIA headquarters in Banjul.
She said while at Mile II, a prison warden told her that “A woman who works like a man would be ‘paid’ like a man.”
She said they were escorted to the NIA headquarters in the middle of the night.
“I felt sceptical because anything could have happened. Those who came to pick us were all males and a lot came into my mind but I can’t do anything about it,” he said.
She said she was interrogated together with Fatou Camara and Lamin Marong. She said a man in a military trouser kicked and took her where she was tortured. She said she was straggled on a table and cold water was poured on her. She added that she was blindfolded with the use of her own head tie.
“Some of them hold my hands while others hold my legs and continue to beat me,” she said, adding that “they were beating me from my head and all parts of my body and the water they poured on me was cold and they were using their batons to beat me.”
She said while she was being tortured, it was difficult for her to breath. She said while going to the NIA she was putting on a wrapper which she borrowed from an inmate. She said they beat her until they knew that she could not do any movement, and they dragged her and threw her aside.
She said despite her pain, she was dragged to the interrogation room where they asked her whether Lawyer Ousainou Darboe was behind the demonstration.
She said when she was out of the panel room, she was blindfolded again using the same material. She alleged that the then Director of Operations of the NIA, Sheikh Omar Jeng threatened to instruct men to have sexual intercourse with her if she refused to state the truth.
She said she was treated at the NIA clinic inside the headquarters by NIA operatives Fatou Darboe , Lamin Lang Sanyang and Sariba. She said Sariba is from Kanilai and she was helpful to them
“The Junglers used to torture people at the NIA and medics will provide treatment to the victims,” she said.
She told the Commission that she couldn’t walk as a result of torture and she was using a wheelchair to move. She added that people used to help her take shower or lie down. She said she spent 9 days at the NIA clinic and after which she was moved to the ‘Bambadinka’ cell. She said ‘Bambadinka’ is placed behind several cells. She said they were given D25 daily as lunch.
On whether she was the only person put in that cell, she responded in the negative. She said she was there with Fatou Camara and Nogoi Njie. She told the Commission that she was denied access of food from her family by the NIA until when the court made the order that she should be allowed food in her cell.
She said her husband was also arrested but due to pressure from social media, he was released and dismissed from his job at KMC.
She said from the NIA, she was transferred to the Janjanbureh prisons with some of his colleagues after refusing the offer to desist from politics.
She said they were denied access to food and no persons were allowed to visit them or take food to them at the NIA. She said they were released after 8 months of their detention.
She said her career in politics started during her primary school days and she has onetime served as the youth mobiliser for UDP.
According to her, she was threatened by the former regime that she was stubborn and would be arrested. She was elected National Assembly Member for Tallinding Constituency in 2017 legislative elections under UDP ticket.