By Nelson Manneh
A former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency Harry Sambou has on Monday 25th January 2021 described Yahya Jammeh as a sadist.
Sambou told the Truth Commission, “He wants to see people suffer.”
The witness said Yahya Jammeh was a person who enjoyed seeing people suffer and he hardly believed in people.
“Yahya Jammeh used to say the only way he believes that you can make people talk was to forcefully extract information from them,” he said.
He said Yahya Jammeh used to give out his personal orders, like ‘give him VIP treatment’.
Mr. Sambou said he was in 2009 given contract as permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, where he worked for three years.
He said when his services were terminated; he left the country for exile in Senegal in order to secure his life.
He said at the time of his spell, the ministry of Defence was overseen by Yahya Jammeh.
“Working with Yahya Jammeh was one of the most difficult things I came across at the time. Yahya Jammeh will read through the lines on any report written. I even thought that he thinks he understood English more than everybody and he did not appreciate people’s work,” he said.
He said one must be tolerant and matured to be able to work with Yahya Jammeh.
The witness said Yahya Jammeh was very temperamental and had pathological problem, adding he was unpredictable and no one could tell what his decision would be.
“Yahya Jammeh was a king. He will call you and you go and answer to him. It is not like if you want to see him you go and see him even the secretary General at the time does not have access to him easily,” he said.
Sambou said he was never terrified of Yahya Jammeh, but he approached Yahya Jammeh carefully.
Harry Sambou said as permanent Secretary, his responsibilities were to give Yahya Jammeh technical advice and leave it to him to take it or not.
“When you are talking to Yahya Jammeh you have to look at him right in his eyes and tell him the truth straight forward,” he said.
The witness said at the NIA, sometimes names of people were sent to be enrolled based on directives.
Sambou said at the NIA, some of the Directors who worked there used to send their relatives to the foreign services.
He said the NIA was Yahya Jammeh’s tool for torturing people. He said the NIA was used for torturing people in order to get what Yahya Jammeh wants.
“The primary function of the NIA was to gather intelligence and therefore the institution should have enough independence, but in the Gambia it was different,” he said.
He said the NIA was given powers more than the then NSS. He said at the NIA everything was centred on Yahya Jammeh.
He said at certain stage, Yahya Jammeh took the Gambia as his own property. He said at that time civil servants used to wear Yahya Jammeh’s ‘ashobee’.
He said Jammeh used to give them ‘ashobees’ free of charge and if you refused to wear it, you will be categorized as an opposition.
“In the Gambia apart from Agriculture, no department was bigger than the civil service and most of the civil servants have responsibilities, so they cannot go against Jammeh because they would not want to lose their jobs,” he said.
The witness said when the Farafenni attackers were arrested and took to the NIA headquarters, they were seriously tortured by officers at the NIA.
The witness said the testimony of one of the Farafenni attackers Mballo Kanteh was true.
Sambou said Baba Saho, Salmina Drammeh, Jim Drammeh, Lamin Jobarteh, Foday Barry were the officers who tortured the arrested rebels.
He said when they were dealing with the rebels, some soldiers were also present there and one Sam participated in the torturing of the rebels.
He said when he was the Director of Operation at the IEC, he was preparing the budgets for the 2006 elections then he got a telephone call from statehouse.
“When I went to the statehouse I was given a letter of appointment as the acting Director-General of the NIA, then I took the letter to my chairmen at the IEC,” he said.
He said after few weeks, he moved to the NIA.
Harry Paul Francis Sambou was born in Banjul on the 10th March 1953.
Sambou graduated from senior secondary school in 1972 and got his first job as an account clerk in June 1973.
He said in 1975, he got scholarship from the government of the Gambia and went to study abroad and came back to the country in 1983.
Sambou said in 1986, he worked at the office of the president under the then National Security Service (NSS) and was later deployed to the Department of Social Welfare. He said he also work with the ministry of Justice.
The TRRC witness said he also works at the Ministry of Works as the deputy permanent secretary. He said from1994 to 1997; he worked with the NIA as the director of administration and finance. On that position, he said he reported directly to the Director-General.
He said in 1997 he went to the United Kingdom for another masters in Management and when he came home in 1998, he was posted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was deployed to the Gambia High Commission in Nigeria and in the year 2000, he came home.
He said in 2002, he was terminated without any reason given to him. But in 2004, he picked up another job at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) as director of operations, and in 2006 he was reinstated as the Acting Director General of NIA. His service was terminated after eight months.
Harry Sambou will continue his marathon testimony today.