By Yankuba Jallow
Dr. Isatou Njie Saidy, a former Vice President of the Gambia has admitted before the TRRC that under their Government, every Gambian was a victim directly or indirectly.
#“Everybody was a victim directly or indirectly. I think there should be reconciliation for the whole country. The killing of innocent children was unforgivable,” she said.
She said she came to know about their Government’s atrocities through outside sources and the TRRC. She said from the testimonies before the TRRC, she came to realize that the Government that she served for about 20 years was actually engaged in several human rights violations.
“Whenever I receive the Amnesty International Report or any other report about the human status of The Gambia, I used to pass it to the (former) President Jammeh’s Office but he wouldn’t reply to me,” she said.
She held the position of deputy executive secretary and later executive secretary of the Women’s Bureau until after 22nd July 1994 coup. She said she was first appointed as the Minister of Health and Social Welfare around 1996 and in 1997, she was appointed as the Vice President.
Human Rights Violations by their Government
She said she knew media houses were attacked and burnt. She said she knew about the arrest and detention as well as the killing of some journalists. She said she was always aware of the attack, arrest and detention of politicians by their government. She said she knows about unlawful dismissal of civil servants. She said she knew about the accusations of coups by her government. She said she did not know about the “junglers” when she was in government, adding that she knew about them during the TRRC proceedings.
“I heard a lot of enforced disappearances of people but I couldn’t do anything about it,” she said.
She said she was not aware that their government was involved in the killing of people both security and civilians. She added that she came to know about the killings by their government at the TRRC.
“We had human rights concerns in this country. We knew it through people,” she said.
She said she was not part of the former President’s treatment programme.
“I was not part of the treatment programme,” she said.
She said the former President told her that he was from a family of doctors and he was capable of curing HIV/AIDS.
She said she was not aware of the former President’s witch-hunt at the beginning until later when she came to know about it.
“I didn’t know. I heard about it later,” she said.
She said the NIA was under the Office of the President, adding that she was aware of their activities.
“People who went there and came out will complain about been tortured,” she said.
“I take responsibility whether I directed them or not, I have taken responsibility because I was part of the government,” she said.
She was called by the TRRC to talk about their Government’s attacks on the media, political opponents, students, arrest and detention, false coup accusation, Jammeh’s HIV/Aids treatment programme, the use of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) as an instrument of terror, the April 10thand 11th 2000 incident among others.
April 10 and 11
She said she was not aware of pre-existing problem between the government and the students. She said she came to about the students’ problem at the airport when former President Jammeh told her to talk to the students about their problem.
She said she instructed her orderly, Baboucar Jobarteh to invite the members of the National Security Council (NSC) and the members of the Gambia Students Union (GAMSU) to a meeting at her office. She said she waited for the invitees to a meeting and they did not turn up at the slated time in the morning. She said at around 10:30, her orderly informed her about a planned students’ demonstration.
She said she did not know what was happening until the service chiefs came to her office. She told the Commission that she couldn’t remember what former President Yahya Jammeh told her about how to go about the situation.
She said they met as security-council and they came up with a decision.
“I cannot remember the decision we made,” she said, adding “all I remembered was that we have to address the issue.”
“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember. This was a very ‘tight’ day and people were busy on how to normalize the situation,” she said.
She said the meeting was not a normal NSC meeting.
“I think the Council (NSC) agreed to go and stabilize the situation,” she said.
She said they deployed personnel from the army and all other security sectors.
She denied instructing former Chief of Staff Baboucar Jatta to deploy soldiers on the 10th and 11th April 2000. She said she is not an expert in security matters especially in terms of operational matters.
“I cannot tell them to deploy the forces here and there. The security chiefs were experts in their own areas. All I know is we agreed as a security-council to stabilize the situation and the operational matters was theirs (the security chiefs),” she said.
She said former President Jammeh never instructed her to deploy security personnel to deal with the students the way they were dealt with.
“As the head of the country at that time, I accept responsibility of what happened but I was not handling the operations of the security personnel,” she said.
The former VP said she was told by security chiefs that the students were politically motivated and they destroyed properties during the demonstration.
She said it was the service chiefs who prepared the speech at the Office of the President and she read it on behalf of former President Jammeh. She said she visited the wounded victims as well as the vandalized facilities. She said when President Jammeh came, he set up a commission of inquiry to look into the incident.
She came to know about the deaths of students two or three days later through the Coroner’s Inquest. She admitted that part of her speech which was broadcast was false and misleading, adding that she did know about the falsehood at that time until when the Coroner’s Inquest came out with its findings.
“We apologize on behalf of the government. We know it is painful and some are still living with the pain. I want to apologize to those who required treatment for the past 20 years, but were not provided with treatment,” she said.
She said she was born 15 March 1952 in Kuntaya Village – North Bank Region.