By Nelson Manneh
Babucarr Jatta, the former Minister of Interior, has admitted before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that the killings of the West African migrants were sanctioned by State House in July 2005 under ex-President Yahya Jammeh regime.
“The State was responsible and you as Minister of Interior confirmed that the murder of these migrants was sanctioned from State House?” asked Chairman Sise. “Yes,” Jatta responded.
He also said the authorities in the previous regime were involved in a cover-up by failing to investigate the killings of the West African migrants which took place in July 2005.
“This is state execution by soldiers from State House?” said Faal.
“Yes,” said the witness, adding that if the investigations were under him, the killings would not have happened.
“But it went into the wrong hands,” he said. “Marena told me that it was an executive order that they have to be in possession of the migrants.”
“Did that Executive Order, includes killing them?” asked Faal. “No, it was to investigate the migrants,” said the witness.
According to him, it was only Yahya Jammeh who ordered Musa Mboob to be arrested and beaten during the course of investigating late Ndure Cham.
Disappearance of Evidence
“You did not inspect the diary when you went to Barra?” “Yes,” said the witness. He added that when he told the Commission that he inspected the diary, it was not true. He finally agreed that the diary was tampered with and falsified. He said he did not know who removed the Diary.
“As Minister of Interior, what happened to the rest of the detainees?’ asked Faal.
Jatta said the Ghanaian Foreign Ministry was in The Gambia and some of them went back with them. He admitted that the police participated in some of the cover-ups because the diary was tampered with purposely to sit on information.
“Do you think you were an effective Minister of Interior?” asked Faal.
The witness responded in the affirmative; adding that he clearly did not know what the IGP was doing and did not know that the IGP was the architect of these killings.
“You gave a blind eye to what was going on?” asked Faal. “Yes, I cannot control the IGP because he was at State House on daily basis. Sometimes for three months, I won’t see the IGP,” the witness told the commission. “You knew that he was a known killer?” asked Faal. “Yes,” said Jatta.
Jatta reminded the Commission that at the time he was CDS, Almamo Manneh was killed but there were no investigations. He said according to the rules of the army, the matter should have been investigated, but that did not happen.
“The State of The Gambia sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of West African Migrants by State Agents from State House by former president Yahya Jammeh?” asked Chairman Sise. “Yes,” said the former Minister Interior.
Testifying earlier, Jatta, who was appointed as Minister of Interior on 1st March 2005, told TRRC that there were promotions under former President Yahya Jammeh for people who were not qualified for those positions. He added that the current system is even too high for The Gambia to have a Lt. General.
“Mr. Jatta do you agree that the ranks structure in the army needs reform?” asked Counsel Faal. “If it will not cause any collateral damage, yes,” said Jatta.
Jatta added that inconsistency in bringing back officers to their previous ranks should be avoided.
The witness said in July 2005, they were at the McCarty Square celebrating the July 22nd Anniversary. Sonko then told him about some captives in Barra. He said he told Sonko ‘hope they were not migrants’. He said Sonko then advised him to inform the President which he did.
“I told the President these people could be migrants and Sonko responded, ‘It could be.’ When I spoke to Jammeh, he responded to me ok ok, I know,” he said.
Asked as Minister of Interior whether he was given the description of how the migrants were captured, Jatta said it was Musa Mboob who called him and told him that the migrants were only having bags.
“If they were a threat, they would have been carrying weapons and would have prepared their minds,” he said.
Retired Colonel Jatta revealed that based on their observations, they concluded that the captives were nothing other than migrants. The witness further confirmed that the captives were not enemies of the State and even if they were, there are laws on how they should be treated. He said the captives should have been treated humanely, given medical access and nothing should have happened to them, which was known to all the service chiefs of The Gambia.
“Jammeh left the place in anger and went back to the state house,” he said.
Jatta said he did not see anyone talking to Jammeh on the ground because he was far away from where Jammeh was sitting.
“Did you participate in escorting the President back to State House?” asked Faal. “No,” said the witness.
Asked what happened the next day, Jatta said he was communicating with the Director General of Immigration, Musa Mboob, who confirmed to him that they were migrants. The witness said the DG of immigration had offices in the entire country and in Barra that was why he was able to know the captives were migrants. Jatta added that the Immigration Department was supposed to process the migrants and provide them with medical assistance if necessary and deport them back to where they come from.
“I told Mr. Mboob that if they don’t meet the ECOWAS requirements, let them be taken back. Mboob told me that there was a list of their names,” he said.
Jatta gave the list bearing the names of the migrants which was given to him by the Deputy Director-General of Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEAG), Ebrima Bun Sanneh, to the commission. He explained that he received information on the 23rd July 2005 that death bodies were discovered in Ghana Town.
“As Minister of Interior, people have been massacred three kilometers away from your residence and you want to tell the Commission that you did not go to the scene,” Faal said.
Jatta responded that he did not go there because someone had to do the job. He said it is not true when Pa Amady Jallow said as CDS, he (Jatta) passed the scene and stopped his vehicle.
After a while, the witness confirmed that the day after the Jamboree, the IGP informed him, that death bodies were discovered in Ghana Town and he instructed the Ministry of Health to be informed so that the bodies would be taken to the Mortuary. He added that those arrested in the night were handed over to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He said he was worried when he heard that people died in Ghana Town because it was an indication that something terrible had happened. Jatta said when he contacted Daba Marena, the latter intimated to him that the NIA was trying to gather some intelligence reports because he was aware of the dead bodies in Brufut.
“I have responsibility for the police, but at the point of arrest and detention, they (the NIA) were in charge,” said Jatta.
“Do you know that the State Guard were present at the Navy?” asked Faal. “I was never aware of that,” he responded.
Jatta said he was not told that the migrants were distributed in various police stations. He said a large number of people were arrested and they didn’t identify their nationality.
Faal asked him whether he was not worried about their safety after he discovered 8 bodies. He responded in the negative.
“Did the IGP tell you that majority of them were in Police Stations?” asked Faal. “No,” he responded. “Here you are, the worst crime had happened other than November 11 and there were no investigations,” Faal said. “We were on a familiarization and I spoke to Daba Marena, he told me they were investigating something,” Jatta responded.
Mr. Jatta said all of them were involved in a cover-up as they failed to come out and investigate the killings which were meted out to the migrants by the State.