By Yankuba Jallow
The Alkalo of Kerr Mot Hali said the followers of Sering Ndigal went to exile in Senegal because they were adamant that the Kerr Mot Hali Mosque would not be renovated by anyone.
Sheikh Alieu Secka, the Alkalo of Kerr Mot Hali said the late marabout, Sering Ndigal, defied his father’s way of Islam by establishing his own sect and his people do not perform the five daily prayers.
“Ndigal’s father constructed the mosque at Kerr Mot Hali for people to pray. Ndigal and his followers were not praying in the mosque,” the witness said.
Sheikh Alioun Secka told the truth commission he was born in the year 1959 in Kerr Mot Hali of the Gambia, adding that there is a Kerr Mot Hali in Senegal. The witness became the Alkalo of Kerr Mot Hali after the family and followers of Sering Ndigal were sent to exile by the paramilitary sometime in January 2009.
He said Ndigal was not born in Kerr Mot Ali of the Gambia, but he was brought to the village to strengthen the Islamic in the village. The witness said the Mosque at Kerr Mot Hali was not only built for the people of the community but for also those living in nearby areas to use it for prayers.
The Kerr Mot Hali Alkalo said he is a Gambian. He said his ID Card is at Njaw Station because he used it to bail someone.
He said the Mosque at the village was built by Alhagie Basirou Secka, the father of Sering Ndigal. He confirmed that Ndigal was brought to Kerr Mot Ali Gambia by his father to head the village.
According to him, Ndigal was called Ndigal after he started giving instructions to his followers or disciples. The witness said Sering Ndigal founded his own religion other than the Islamic faith because they were not praying the five daily prayers. He said Ndigal’s followers do not fast during the month of Ramadan, adding the way they give out Zakat was different from what is dictated by Sharia.
The witness said not all residents of Kerr Mot Hali were followers of the Ndigal. He denied the testimony of the Ndigal followers that at the time they were forcefully evicted from the village, there were 81 compounds in the area. He said the number of compounds in Kerr Mot Ali were not up to 81 as alleged by a previous witness.
The witness adduced that those who were not followers of Ndigal’s teachings were disturbed to the extent they migrated to other communities. He added that those who were not Ndigal’s followers and did not leave the village were not tortured or asked to follow Ndigal unwillingly. The witness said he did not know how many followers Ndigal had, because he was not part of them.
At this juncture, Deputy Lead Counsel, Haddy Dandeh Njie Jabbie told him that it has come to the attention of the Commission that 500 people were following him. The witness said right now the village has thirteen households, adding that at the time he came to the village, he found many structures there.
The witness testified that when Ndigal died, his son Muhamadou Basirou Secka took over and continued the way of Ndigal. He added all those who love Islam in that area did not like the way they were performing the Religion.
He said when Ndigal died in 2007, Sheikh Alieu Secka, a paternal brother of Ndigal came from Senegal to the Gambia with the mission to renovate the mosque. The witness added Sheikh Alieu met the Chief of the District, Malick Mbaye and ex-Governor Nganyi Touray, the followers of Ndigal’s ways, the paramilitary and the police were all present. He told the TRRC that the purpose of the meeting was centered on the re-opening of the Mosque which was built by his father.
“Ndigal and Sheikh Alieu Secka are from the same father,” the witness said.
According to the witness, the police and the paramilitary personnel were there to provide protection to avoid commotion. However, Deputy Lead Counsel told the witness that the essence of the meeting was to re-open the Mosque which did not necessitate the presence of the PIU but the witness believed that the security personnel were important there.
He said the first day of the reopening of the mosque was cancelled owing to the refusal of the followers of Sering Ndigal for it to be opened. He said the activity was rescheduled and this time, the Chief, the Paramilitary, Malick Mbye – the then National Assembly Member, and Nganyi Touray – the then Governor of CRR among others attended the meeting.
He said Governor Touray told the Ndigal followers that the mosque will be reopened and that they have the choice to pray or to abstain from praying.
“They (the members of the Ndigal sect) told the Governor that the mosque won’t be reopened,” the witness said.
The witness said it was at this point that the Governor stressed to them that the mosque must be reopened.
“The Ndigal followers told the Governor that they will resist the reopening of the mosque even if it will result to the loss of their lives,” the witness said, adding that “the Governor told them that no life will be lost but the mosque will be reopened.
The witness said the mosque was not used by the people of Kerr Mot Hali. He said animals including donkeys used the place as their abode.
“The government sent the paramilitary and the police who surrounded the mosque to protect the people working at the mosque,” he said.
The witness said those who were working at the mosque were from Senegal at a place called Touba Saloum. The witness denied the allegation that the Ndigal followers were forced to work at the mosque and to pledge allegiance to the new Sheikh (Ali Secka).
“The same year the mosque was reopened was the same year this person left the village,” the witness said.
He added: “the government did what a government was supposed to do.” He said government officials were there to ensure work at the mosque was conducted by the people.
He told the TRRC that the presence of the paramilitary was not pleasant to the Ndigal Followers and fight emanated from them.
“The Ndigal followers wanted to attack the people working at the mosque. They attacked the people at the mosque and they were throwing stones at the paramilitary,” he said.
The witness said one of the paramilitaries was injured on his forehead and this was the time the paramilitary used their means to subdue the followers of Ndigal.
“The struggle between the police and the Ndigal followers forced all the followers of Sering Ndigal to flee to Senegal,” he said.
He said Sheikh Alieu Secka and all his followers were all Senegalese.
“All the residents of Kerr Mot Hali left and we have only 13 compounds who are all followers of Sheikh Ali Secka,” the witness said.
The deputy lead Counsel of the TRRC read the High Court judgment dated 12thOctober 2017 wherein the witness was a defendant. In that case, the High Court held that the followers of Ndigal are Gambians and they were unlawfully evicted from their homes. The court held that the Ndigal followers are Gambians and they have the right to return to the Gambia. The witness said the judgment was in favour of the Ndigal followers.
The witness said Ndigal father founded Kerr Mot Hali and he built a mosque there.
“Ndigal was brought there by his father. The mosque was built by Ndigal’s father for prayers but when Ndigal stopped praying, his elder brother Sheikh Alieu Secka came and wanted to renovate the mosque for people to pray there,” he said.
The witness said he does not know the number of people following the Ndigal sect, even though the judgment went against his wish. He said Ndigal and his father were both born in Touba Saloum in Senegal. The witness said if the followers of Ndigal are brought back then it will be an abuse of power.