By Yankuba Jallow
An ex-Inspector General of Police, Zephaniah King has told the TRRC that his orders during the April 2000 mass students’ demonstration were not followed by his juniors.
Alias Rexx King said he does not know who gave the police orders to use life ammunition on the students.
He said some of the people who were on the field should not have been there because it was a police operation. He said the former Minister of Interior Ousman Badjie, former Chief of Defense Staff Baboucar Jatta among others should not have been at the demonstration ground.
Rexx said those who were there and where not supposed to be there, would have more information about the happenings on the 10th April 2000.
“What were they doing there?” he said.
The demonstration claimed the lives of 14 leaving several others injured. The students were demanding for justice for their colleagues; Ebrima Barry and Binta Manneh. Barry was alleged to have died as a result of torture by officials of the Fire and Rescue Services and Manneh was allegedly raped by personnel of the police intervention unit (PIU).
About the Students’ Demonstration
He received information about the intended demonstration by students before 10th April 2000. He said he called his men and gave them operational orders. He said he further got information that the students will be matching to go to Banjul to see the Vice President. He added that he gave orders to the police that they should be allowed to see the Vice President.
He said he did not give any of his men instruction to shoot the students. He said he came to know about the shootings when he was called by Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, an opposition leader who informed him that the police were opening fire on the students.
“There was no need for them to be at GTTI. No. Those who were on the ground had no business to be there. They had no business to be there. I don’t know them because I was not there and they refused to tell me who they were. I have inquired about them until I was cautioned to drop this matter,” the former Police Chief said.
He said the problem wouldn’t have happen if the police did not go to GTTI. He said the instruction of the police to go to GTTI wasn’t from him. He adduced that the instruction must have come from someone.
“At this stage, did you give orders to withdraw your men? Asked Essa Faal, the Commission’s Lead Counsel.
“No,” the witness replied.
“Why don’t you withdraw your men?” the Counsel posed again.
“It was because I did not want to get involved. I did want to be associated with them because I knew if I have done that the blame would have been too much on me,” he said.
After several follow up questions, the former head of police admitted that he did nothing to avert the situation or to stop his men from carrying on with the shooting of the students.
He said he called the police management team for a debriefing and he asked them who changed his orders. He said he asked them who gave the orders for the shooting with the use of live ammunition. He told the Commission that life ammunition was used.
He told the Commission that some of the ammunition of his men was missing. He said the ammunition should be checked, but it wasn’t because of the situation then.
He said in the process of inquiring what happened, he was released from his position. He said he tried all he could to get answers to his questions but none provided him with answers.
Rex King accepted that there was communication failure from the Gambia Police Force.
He said he was retired by the government in June 2000.