By Yankuba Jallow and Makutu Manneh
Fatou Jallow, a former winner of the Yahya Jammeh’s sponsored July 22nd Beauty Pageant has accused the former head of state of raping her at the State House.
Alias Toufa, Fatou won the 22nd July Beauty Pageant at age 18 for tertiary schools category in 2014. She appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Thursday, 31st October 2019 with regards to her incident with the former President.
“Yahya Jammeh penetrated me after doing the facial rubbing,” Toufa said.
The 23 – year – old said she came to know about the 22nd July Beauty Pageant after she watched it on television and this motivated her to participate in it because the Pageant comes with a scholarship. She said the Pageant had important aspects such as debate, poetry, drama among other display of talents by students. Toufa said she was moved because she wanted to further her education.
The Jarra Soma born said the advertisement for the scholarships on GRTS was put in such way that there were students who have benefitted from the scholarship up to PhD Level and some have already returned to the country and they were serving.
“This really interested me because I wanted to further my education,” she said.
She said she participated in the December 2014 edition of the 22nd July Beauty Pageant. She said she was trained by one Madam Carlos. She said in the College preliminary round, she came out second and she was selected to represent the Gambia College at the 22nd July Beauty Pageant with the winner of the preliminary round. She said the Pageant was held on the 6th December 2014.
She said they were told to stay at the Paradise Hotel for weeks prior to the competition proper. She said during this time, they were denied family access and they were trained on how to go about the contest. She said before she left, she had already learnt how to play the Riti – a Fula musical instrument.
“They were very protective of us. Male drivers were not allowed to come to where we were. The atmosphere was great. It was a girls’ camp atmosphere,” she said, adding that they were instructed not to interact with the drivers and the hotel staff at the gate.
She said she wanted a scholarship to further her education abroad because she did not want to be at the Gambia College.
On the day of the competition
She said everyone was nervous and they were anxious to participate. She said in the evening, their schools came supporting them adding that they were 22 contestants. She said after the contest, the winners were announced and she came out the winner for the tertiary categories.
“After the winners were announced, we were given gifts on the stage,” she said.
She said the competition was held in November 2014. She said after the competition, they were not told what next and they all left for home, adding that they were waiting for a courtesy call from former President Jammeh.
She said sometime in December 2014, she was called to go to the State House for a ceremony wherein former President Jammeh was awarded for food self-sufficiency. She said her other colleague winners of the other categories were present in that event. She said after the event, one Jimbe Jammeh came to them and informed them Yahya Jammeh, the former President wanted to meet them.
“We were 10 winners but 2 did not attend the ceremony,” she said.
She said they waited for ex-President Jammeh who went to pray and he joined them later.
“We were excited to meet the President because it was our first time to meet him,” she said.
She said Jammeh told them that he has watched the Pageant and their performances were great.
“President Jammeh gave me D50,000 and he gave the other girls money but I don’t know the amount,” Toufa said.
She said during their meeting with the former President, he gave her black liquid medicine in a bottle to ease the pain for her during the menstruation.
“It looked like charcoal,” she said, adding that former President Jammeh promoted the medicine saying “it will cure future menstrual pains.”
She added that there was one of her colleagues who complained of headache and the former President gave her the medicine to drink.
“He (Yahya Jammeh) advised us to focus on our education,” she said.
She said they left the State House late and went home waiting for the former President’s courtesy call.
She said this was a meeting with former President Yahya Jammeh because he was the main sponsor of the 22nd July Beauty Pageant. She said they spent two days at a hotel and they were oriented about how to go about the ceremony. She added that they sew the same clothing and they come up with a song for the former President. She said they were taught how to behave in the midst of diplomats.
She said the courtesy call was attended by cabinet ministers, the former President and some diplomats. She added that after the ministers spoke, she spoke on behalf of her colleagues and thanked the president for his support for girls’ education. She said former President advised them to focus on their education and exhibit morale as well as be supportive be to their parents. She said Jammeh gave her a laptop, an iPhone 6, an Ipad, a box with a coin with Jammeh’s head printed on it and a cash prize.
“I was given a cash prize of D200,000 by Jammeh,” she said, adding that the other winners were also given a cash prize.
She said after the courtesy call, they went back to the hotel and they were helped to open an account where the cash prizes were deposited. She added that the following day, they went home.
She said they were invited to a New Year Eve dinner and the 22nd July Pageant winners were given a table as a Guest. She said on the 30th December 2014, they went to a five-star hotel and stayed there till the 1st January 2015. She said they were there till 2 am.
She said on the 3rd January 2015, Jimbe Jammeh called her and asked her about a project that the beauty pageant winners were working on. She added that Jimbe asked her to send the project to her for faster processing because if it passes through the Ministry of Education, the process may delay. She added that Jimbe requested her to submit the project even though it wasn’t finished. Toufa said a driver came from the State House and took her to the State House.
“The driver picked me after 10 pm and that was my first meeting with the former President,” she said, adding that this was the first time she entered the residential area of the State House.
She said the driver was driver Landing Sanyang and when she arrived at the residential area of the State House, she was received by Jimbe, who escorted her upstairs of a building.
She said Major Alieu Sanyang also known as King Papa ushered them inside a big living room without anyone inside. She said she sat with Jimbe in that room waiting for former President Jammeh who was at that time praying. She said after an hour and a half, the former President walked in and shooked her hand and hugged her.
She said, Yahya Jammeh congratulated her for her victory and asked her who taught her how to play the Riti.
“He (Jammeh) kept telling me I am very stubborn,” she said.
She said the former President wanted to confirm whether she was 19 – years – old.
“When I confirmed it to him, he told me that I am not 19 because I talk 19, I don’t behave 19 and I don’t think 19,” she said, adding that “she was not 19 at that time.”
She said after several talks, Jammeh asked about her project. She said after explaining the whole idea of the project to the former President, he asked her to include the rural area in the project.
“Nothing happened between me and the former President on this day,” she said.
She said she was given a gold chain by Jimbe and it was a show of appreciation of her achievement.
“The President said it is because of the good job I have done and Jimbe said I deserved it,” she said.
She said she came down and Landing Sanyang drove her home. She said she arrived at the State House around 11 pm and left around 2 am.
She said all this while she missed a lot of days in school because she had to attend a lot of events, adding that her school administration used to ask her parents about her whereabouts.
She said on the 10th January 2015, she was invited to a Pape Joof show together with her colleague 22nd July pageant winners. She said they performed and danced at the show.
She said on the 14th January 2015, she met the former President at State House. She said she was picked at home after 7 pm by Landing Sanyang – the driver. She said this time she was taken to a different room, adding that the room had photos of Jammeh’s family.
“I was surprised by the way I met him. I see him big on the TV, but when I saw him, I see a totally different person,” she said.
She said Jimbe suggested to her that her dress was big and she should be wearing clothing that fits her. She said while sitting there, Yahya Jammeh was watching Senegalese grand wrestling and he was smoking.
She said after the wrestling, Jammeh asked how much she needed for the project implementation.
“I told him that I needed D60,000 but he told me he will increase it to D100,000,” she said.
She said Jammeh said he will call her to come for the money in another day.
“That was the night he offered me the job as a Protocol Officer at the State House,” she said.
She said she told Jammeh that she wants to further education and will later come back to serve as a Protocol Officer. She added that Jammeh did not say anything much.
“In that night, Jammeh hugged me and nothing inappropriate happened,” she said.
She said she reached home around 11 pm. She said there was a day when Jimbe visited her family home. She said Jimbe told her parents that the President was proud of her and that she shouldn’t allow anything to distract her from her education. She said Jimbe indicated that they want to support her with her studies.
She said her next interaction with the former President was at a 3 – day display of products programme by farmers in Kanilai from 29th to 31st January 2015. She said the other 22nd July Beauty Pageant winners attended and they spent 3 days there. She said the first night was a display of goods by the farmers and the second night was a “Gammo” – religious night. She said the third day, there was a match by students.
She said when the return to Kombo, Jimbe took her shopping at Kairaba Avenue where they bought furniture and clothing for her.
“She did not tell me why she bought the clothing for me. I think she told me the money was coming from Yahya Jammeh,” she said, adding that “Jimbe told me winners get a lot.”
“Jimbe just mentioned that it was just a gift and it is part of the gift for the winners,” Toufa said.
She said Jimbe took her to Qcell where the iPhone that Yahya Jammeh gave her was unlocked.
She said a night before the Independence celebration in 2015, there was a reception at a hotel and there was a live band. She said on the 18th February, she wore a Yahya Jammeh clothing and went to the Independence Stadium in Bakau. She said after the whole day celebration of the parade, she was invited at a dinner and there were fireworks.
She said February 20th, there was a wrestling contest held at the McCarthy Square in Banjul which she attended with the former President. She said the event went on till late night.
She said the Ministry requested for their full-length photos which were supposed to be submitted to the State House.
She said she attended former President Jammeh’s birthday on the 25th May 2015 though she did not interact with him.
She said a few days after the birthday celebration, Jimbe called her to come to the State House. She said at the State House, she was taken to a different room at the Jammeh’s family residential area. She said the room had photos of Zeinab Jammeh, the wife of former President Jammeh. She said after waiting for 2 hours, Jammeh walked in and asked her about her political allegiance to the APRC. She said Jammeh also asked whether she listens to the Fatu Radio and the Freedom Online Radio. She said she replied in the negative that she hardly had data on her phone. She said Jammeh later turned their conversation asking her about her conception about marriage.
“He asked me “Will you want to marry me? For me, I thought it was a test because Yahya Jammeh has always advised me not to focus on boys.”
“He told me there is nothing wrong to marry a man that is going to take care of you.”
“He asked who my boyfriend was.”
“He did tell me to go and think about it,” Toufa adduced.
“I felt a little deceived. I lost the fatherly feeling I had for him. At that moment I was disappointed.”
She said she was given D50,000 for her project instead of D100,000 as promised. She said, ex-President Jammeh told her that the money was for her coming.
“I did not share the information with my mum or dad. I did not take the proposal seriously,” she said.
She adduced that whenever someone calls her, the phone used to connect to something before reconnecting to her.
She said days after the proposal was made, Jimbe showed her a compound at the AU Villa. She said Jimbe told her that the compound and the car parked there were both hers as a way of inducing her to marry the President. She said it was the first time Jimbe asked her to marry the former President.
“On my way, Landing Sanyang for the first time told me to be careful because Jimbe was a powerful person at the State House,” the witness said.
She said she blacklisted Jimbe’s phone number but she will still call her with the use of a private number. She whenever Jimbe called her, she will come up with an excuse to avoid her.
She said sometimes before Ramadan in 2015, she was invited to a Gamo at the State House by Jimbe. She said Jimbe told her that the other girls were already there.
She said at the State House, Jimbe ushered her in a room by Jimbe but sometime later, Jimbe asked her to move to another room. She said she sat with Jimbe in the room but Jimbe decided to leave for something.
“Out of nowhere, the former President walked in,” she said, adding that “his eyes were very red.”
“That scared me for a second. I greeted him but he did not respond. He told me “who do you think you are?” He pulled his hand to get on to me and held me on my arm. He pushed me and opened a brown door and locked the door.”
“He said let’s see if you are a virgin. I swear to God that I was scared. I started apologizing because he appeared angry. He held face and pulled his pants down and rubbed his genitals on my face. He pulled my clothes down and started raping me.”
“Yahya Jammeh decided to penetrate me before he did that, he removed a needle and injected me.”
“What he wanted to do was not to have sexual pleasure with me. What he wanted to do was to teach me a lesson. He felt my “no” to his proposal was disrespectful to him. He felt that he was the President and I don’t have the right to say no,” she said.
“Yahya Jammeh penetrated me after doing the facial rubbing.”
Toufa said while she was been raped, the Koranic recitation was ongoing and she was hearing the recitation.
“Yahya Jammeh was sweating. My face was on the bed crying for help when there was none.”
“He put his penis into my anus instead of my vagina. My muscles were hurting.”
“I felt unconsciousness at some time. I don’t know what Yahya Jammeh did to me at that time. When I wake up, I felt dizzy.”
“When I got up, he told me to get out.”
She said when she was leaving, King Papa told her “this is our President and we will do everything to protect him.” She said when she met Jimbe, she did not utter a word and Landing Sanyang drove her home without saying any word.
“It was the longest night of my life. There was nothing that Jimbe does not know.”
She said she went into exile to Senegal on the 22nd or 23rd July 2015 because she knew that Jimbe and Yahya Jammeh will still follow her. She said she was helped by the UNHCR and she was given asylum to Canada on 6th August 2015.
Fatou Jallow alias Toufa Jallow was born in Masankonko on the 19th April 1996 in Jarra Soma. She now lives in Canada. She said she is now studying social work in Canada. After completing her schooling in Nusrat Senior Secondary School in 2014 she continued to the Gambia College to pursue a higher teachers’ certificate (HTC).