By Nelson Manneh
A witness before the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Samba Gajaga, testified on Monday said former President Yahya Jammeh used to give orders to the NIA to torture detainees.
“Torturing was rampant at the NIA and Yahya Jammeh gave orders for people to be tortured,” he said.
Gajaga said he was born on the 12th December, 1964, in Kerr Samba-Kala, Lower Numi, North Bank Region. After completing his schooling, he joined the Gambia Police Force in 1982, and thereafter he was deployed to the police headquarters in Banjul in 1983. He said at that time, the Police Force was responsible for guarding government buildings.
Gajaga said he was deployed to the prosecution unit and they were responsible for escorting prisoners from Mile II to court and vice versa. He said whilst he was under the prosecution unit, he was taught how to read charges in court and he used to do it especially to the accused persons.
The witness said in 1987, he was moved to another unit within the police that was responsible for intelligence within the police. He said in 1988, there was a departmental transferred and he was moved from the police to the National Security Service (NSS).
Gajaga said when Yahya Jammeh took over government in 1994, the name of NSS was changed to NIA. He said before the name was changed, he worked under the communication unit at NSS now NIA. He said after Yahya Jammeh took over, a commission of Inquiry called ‘Alghali Commission’ was established in 1995.
He said the Alghali Commission was established to look into the assets of custom officers and people who invaded tax. He said he was a junior officer at the NIA at that time. The witness said he was an investigator for the said commission and after the commission completed its functions, he was posted at Barra and then to the Airport.
“From the Airport, I was moved to Ndungu-Kebbeh. Then I later came back to the NIA headquarters in Banjul where I briefly worked at the investigation unit under one Ousman Sowe,” he said.
The witness said when he was working at the investigation unit; the unit was always busy whenever there was rumour of an alleged coup. He said from the investigation unit he was posted to the Immigration Department.
“While I was still at the Immigration Department, I was lucky to go to Darfur for a one-year peacekeeping mission. Whilst in Darfur, we heard that there was a Coup and my boss Daba Marana and others were arrested,” he said.
The witness said while he was still in Darfur, he was told that Daba Marana and others were arrested, and while they were escorting them to Janjangbureh Prison, their vehicle had an accident and the prisoners escaped which was not true. Gajaga said when he came back, he was deployed to the D3 unit and the responsibility of that unit was to investigate soldiers who have a problem with the government.
The witness said in those days, whenever they established a panel to investigate people, the former president Yahya Jammeh used to send people from State House to join the panel and those people will be feeding him with information. He said there was a time when they arrested seven alleged rebels from Senegal and after arresting them, they took them to the NIA to interrogate them, and during that interrogation they tortured them.
Gajaga said those who participated in the torture of the alleged rebels were Alagie Morr, Lamin Darboe and the Late Musa Kinteh. He said he was present together with Bo Badjie, but they did not participate in the torturing.
The witness said a lot of torturing took place at the NIA, while confessing that there is a room at the NIA headquarters where they used to torture people.
“Inside the torture room, there was a metal bed attached to the ground and the colour of the room was red,” he said.
“At the time when I was at the NIA and the panel I belonged to we did the torturing, but for the other panels I was not present. But I heard that they used to torture people in order for them to confess,” he said
Mr. Gajaga who is still serving the NIA, said in 2013 he was appointed as the acting Director General of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and after eight months, he was redeployed to the NIA.