By Nelson Manneh
Harry Sambou, former Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), has told the TRRC that Yahya Jammeh was only interested in protecting his seat.
Sambou informed the Truth Commission that many witnesses said the NIA put on plane clothes and took accused person to Mile2. He said it is important to note that members of the State Guard were also on plain clothes.
The witness said General Alagie Martin, Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungou and Tumbul Tamba served as observers for Yahya Jammeh at the NIA during investigations.
Sambou, who was a former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, said the NIA then was like under a State of Emergency because everybody was a suspect, including himself. He said if he was not careful with his “trading”, he would have been put in the other camp- as an opponent. He said everybody in Gambia knew that if Jammeh has an interest in any case before the court, he will call the judge or magistrate in respect of that particular case.
On the issue of Ramzia Diab, the witness said former President Yahya Jammeh gave instructions to State Guard Commander, Sering Modou, to interrogate her to know whether Lang Tombong Tamba was involved in the 2006 foiled Coup.
Sambou said he told Ramzia about the assignment and left the office.
“In the morning, I went to the panel. I saw her (Ramzia) in a small room and she hugged me and started crying and she informed me that she was beaten,” he said.
Sambou said while he was trying to calm her down, the late Musa Jammeh said to him ‘Ogga’ told them that they should make her talk. According to him, when he explained to Yahya Jammeh that Ramzia said she was beaten, “Jammeh told me to tell Ramzia that she should speak the truth.”
The witness said when he asked President Jammeh about Mariam Jack Denton (current speaker of the national assembly), he said Jammeh asked him whether he wanted to replace them.
On the issue of the Freedom Newspaper Saga, the witness admitted that Lamin Cham, Malick Mboob, Honourable Duta Kammaso and Lamin Bojang were all arrested. He said the arrestees were tortured to obtain confession. He said he tried to convince ex-president Jammeh to release Duta Kammaso on health grounds.
“In your own case you satisfied Yahya Jammeh because you needed to keep your job?” Counsel Fall quizzed Sambou.
“Yes, it was also necessary so that I can keep myself from going to prison,” he said.
Witness Sambou said he was serving his country and will continue to do so. Harry Sambou said findings have proven that Ramzia and Mariama Jack were innocent and they informed Jammeh about it, but Jammeh told them that they should keep them incommunicado.
“The name of late Samba Bah former Director General of the NIA, was wrongly published in one of the Newspapers that he was involved in the 2006 Coup. As a result of that, Yahya Jammeh ordered the Junglers to arrest the said Journalist who was later tortured” he said.
On the issues of disappearances, the witness said his late friend Daba Marena, was the blackest incident in his tenure.
“I convinced Daba to leave the Police and come to the NSS,” he divulged.
He said he felt shocked when he was asked to take the job of his friend despite he heard that his friends were alleged to have involved in a coup. Lead Counsel put it to him that in spite of knowing what surrounded the NIA, he still accepted the job.
So therefore why did you take the job? Faal quizzed. The witness responded that he wanted the job.
Mr. Sambou said he can’t remember the NIA having a representative at Mile 2 Central Prisons. He said Lang Tombong and Ousman Sonko were deeply involved in the arrest and detention of Daba Marena and co and knew everything about what was happening.
“Lt. General Lang Tombong Tamba lied before the Commission when he said that torture was not the modus operandi at the NIA and the same thing applies to the incident of Daba Marena,” he said.
“Are you saying that Lang Tombong Tamba participated in the cooking and cover-up?” asked Faal.
“I am,” he alleged.
Further testifying before the Truth Commission, Sambou accepted that it was a lie when they said that the Vehicle carrying Marena and co summersaulted.
“Why?” asked Faal. In response, Sambou said the country was at a Semi State of Emergency and people were arrested from left, right and center.
Mr. Sambou agreed that security chiefs sat with Yahya Jammeh and fed the public with false information on the executions of Daba Marena and co.
“I have a personal integrity to protect and I will protect it,” said Sambou.
Mr. Sambou advised security personnel to be disciplined and to respect the democratically elected government. He said he accepted to work at the NIA knowing little how challenging it would be contrary to the former NSS.
“We were carried away by the power drunkenness of whims and caprices of a dictator, therefore turning our Institution from an Intelligence collection center to a torture Chamber, by the former president, Yahya Jammeh,” he said.
Sambou therefore apologized to Gambians and all the victims, saying while he was serving Jammeh little did he know that orders will emanate from State House. He said the constant change of director generals and nepotism weakened the NIA.
The witness recollected that he spent four useless and wasteful years in Dakar as an asylum seeker.