By Nelson Manneh
Warrant Officer Class 2, Lamin Sillah, who was a convoy driver during Yahya Jammeh’s regime, on Thursday 9th July, testified before the TRRC with respect to an accident he was involved in.
Lamin Sillah was born on the 1st June 1970 in Banjuliding, Kombo North District in the West Coast Region. He joined the National Gendarmerie in 1991 and when it was amalgamated into the army and police in 1994, he was moved to the Gambia Armed Forces.
He said after the amalgamation of the Gendarmerie, he went through several trainings and courses including the ‘Jungulers’ training in Kanilai. 50-year-old Sillah said after completing the training, he reported to the State House. He said during the period, he was not trained on how to kill a human being, adding he never killed a human being.
He said soldiers are supposed to be trained on how to use a rifle, but not how to kill.
“I was not trained to kill. I have never been instructed to kill,” he said.
Ex-President Jammeh’s Convoy
The witness was part of the convoy’s drivers. The witness said whenever ex-President Yahya Jammeh wanted to go out, the Commander at State Guard would inform them and tell them the time for departure. He said every security personnel who escorted the President used to have in his or her possession AK47 rifle for his (the President’s) protection.
“The convoy was organised in such a way that no one was able to penetrate the convoy,” he said.
He said when the convoy was moving and they saw a threat on the way, they did try by all means to block the threat and allow the convoy to pass.
“When you see something that you are suspicious of, the vehicle behind the convoy will be communicated to by the convoy commander and it will stop and check it,” he said.
The witness said they were once coming from the airport and when they reached Westfield they met with a taxi driver, who was a Nigerian. He said one Almamo Manneh ordered for the convoy to stop and he went down to where the taxi driver was and shot the driver. After shooting him, the convoy continued while they left the victim there.
The witness said the taxi driver was not a threat to the convoy because he was not on the highway. He said when Almamo Manneh shot the taxi driver; he was neither arrested nor prosecuted.
Sillah alleged that the late Almamo Manneh had the attitude of terrorising road users. He said Almamo Manneh had confidence in himself and torturing people was like drinking water to him.
“Almamo once sent me with a vehicle to his village and he told me ‘even if you meet my parents on the highway’, don’t carry them,” he said.
He said if a convoy was passing and met a person sitting down the person was always given a VIP treatment which means the last vehicle of the convoy would stop and torture the person.
“It got to an extent, whenever the convoy was passing even old people, would stand up.” He said.
The witness said Yahya Jammeh the former President ordered that whenever the convoy was passing and someone was sitting down, the person should be given a VIP treatment.
He said no member of the former President’s convoy was ever prosecuted for violating the traffic rules.
The witness said there was a time an Arab was driving a private vehicle and the Arab was going towards the turntable while their convoy was coming from the turntable going towards Senegambia.
“The convoy commander communicated to us that there was a vehicle that they swept, but it refused to leave the way,” he said.
The witness said he tried to seal the President’s Vehicle and eventually the Arab in the private vehicle knocked his vehicle.
The witness said it was better for the Arab driver to hit his vehicle than to hit any other vehicle within the convoy.
“The accident occurred at the middle of the road,” the witness argued.
He said he was trying to protect other vehicles from coming into collision with any vehicle in the convoy.
Sillah said one Sering Modou Njie who was once a Commander at the State Guard once ordered him to escort Zainab Yahya Jammeh’s mother to Dakar. Zainab was the wife to ex-President Jammeh.
He said on their way to Senegal, they met a soldier on the way and they gave him a ride to Amdalai. He said when they reached Amdalai, the soldier was dropped there but Zainab’s mother protested about that.
He said when they came back, they were confronted by the then State Guard Commander on the issue and one Musa Jammeh alias Maliamongo came out and told them that he got order from Yahya Jammeh that they should be taken to Mile 2.
He said what he did should not have attracted the wrath of his superiors to a point that they ordered for him to be incarcerated at mile 2 prison.
He explained that he was jailed at Mile 2 for some days and released after which he continued with his job at the State House.