By Yankuba Jallow
Omar Amadou Jallow alias OJ has faulted the government of PPP for bringing Nigerian soldiers into the Gambia National Army.
“The Jawara government has made a mistake in bringing the Nigerian soldiers into our Army. We made the mistake of bringing the Nigerian soldiers who are the worst coup plotters into the Gambia,” he said.
He adduced that President Sir Dawda (as he then was) has never put the issue for the cabinet to discuss. He added that the whole problem started when the decision was made to diffuse the Gendarmerie into the police. He said the issue was not discussed, instead it was a decision by the then president.
“I wanted the Senegalese to stay,” he said.
Jallow told the Commission that he had served as a minister under the PPP government for 14 and half years as a Minister of Agriculture until the coup when his appointment was terminated.
On his recommendation, Jallow said the government should ensure that the Gambia Police Force, Gambia Armed Forces and other government parastatals are strengthened.
He stated that it was not only Yahya Jammeh who did the atrocities in the country because there were things happening without his notice. He called on the TRRC to ensure that victims are adequately compensated to promote reconciliation and reparation.
In his testimony, Jallow said he was born on the 26th October 1946 and his profession is a politician. He described the coup as a surprise and shock to most of them (the government officials) that the military would overthrow a democratically elected government.
The third day of the coup, OJ narrated, all former ministers in the PPP were asked to report to the National Security Service (NSS). He said he called on a senior police officer to convey him to the NSS headquarters in Banjul where he spent about 10 days. Upon arrival, he found many other former ministers detained there.
In his testimony, he stated that three (3) days later, Yahya Jammeh led a group of soldiers to the NSS headquarters and addressed them. He said Jammeh told them (the ministers) that they were living a flamboyant life and in case they were executed, it was a right cause. The witness said he was the only one who stood up to Jammeh and spoke to him.
Jallow told the Commissioners that Yahya Jammeh is very close to him. “He always comes to my office and I have done many things for him. Jallow adduced that he provided Jammeh with money at the time of Jammeh’s father’s demise for burial.
“We were released but kept under house arrest,” he said.
Jallow explained several arrests that he was subjected to by the junta; that he was arrested over 22 times in 22 years. He said his second arrest was in relation to his condemnation of the Daily Observer publication dated 4th November 1994 where it was mentioned that the Council (AFPRC) has decided to stay for 2 years before handing over power to civilians.
Two days later, the witness said, a group of soldiers came to his residence and took him away to the Fajara Barracks. He said he was later transferred to Mile II. At Mile II, the former Minister of Agriculture said he met Sanna Sabally, Edward Singhateh, Yankuba Touray and Sadibou Hydara as well as some soldiers. He added that the members of the Council mentioned above ordered one Batch Samba to lead a 20-man contingent to torture him severely whilst they were standing watching. He said after the torture, he was put into a cell in Security Wing number one (1) whilst the other ministers were put at the remand wing. The witness testified that he spent only a day at Mile II and was transferred to the NSS.
“I sustained injuries on my back, hand and on my face,” he said.
He said Mr Fafa Mba’I, Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara came to the NSS and facilitated the release of all the ministers except himself.
Before he released them, Mr Fafa Mba’I “told us that the soldiers are so kind that they did not execute us which they could have done. They are now going to release all ministers except myself. Fafa Mba’I told us that I will be executed on Friday (September 11),” OJ detailed.
He said on that Friday, the soldiers did not have his time because they were busy killing each other. He said his release came about when pressure was mounted on the Council by diplomats including the British High Commissioner for his release. He said Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang was a minister by that time and she was the one who came for him and took him to his residence.
He explained that on or about the 13th or 14th October, he was rearrested and this time he was taken to the Fajara Barracks where he met so many detainees including MC Cham and Ousainou Njie, a former managing director of a bank in the Gambia.
“A truck of soldiers from the State Guard came and stripped me, Ousainou Njie and MC Cham naked and we were beaten recklessly,” he said.
He pointed out that one Bubacarr Bah, a resident of Buniadu village and still serving in the Gambia National Army was the one who deliberately punched him on his eyes which left him almost blind. He said currently, Bah is holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He adduced that every morning, Bah will always come with one Almamo Manneh to the store they were detained in and tell them that they will be executed as soon as an order is been received from Yahya Jammeh. Jallow said he was in this store for 13 months without access to either a lawyer or his family. He added that they used to sleep on the concrete floor for all this while without no bed sheet or mattress.
He recounted that there was a soldier who was very helpful to him in smuggling food into the store from his wife.
“That soldier was dismissed after he was caught in the act and from that day, we continued to eat the terrible food they used to serve us at the Barracks,” he said.
He said the main torturers were Musa Jammeh, Almamo Manneh and Boubacar Bah. He said he saw Boubacar Bah kicked a detainee on his head who was later hospitalized because of the injury he suffered.
He said the store they were kept in had no windows and at night, most of the guards refused them to go to the restroom.
“The condition we were was very terrible in that store,” he said.
He said he was released on the 16th November 1996 alongside Ousainou Njie and MC Cham by the then Chief of Defense Staff, Baboucar Jatta.
He said in the year 2005 he was picked up again and taken to Mile II where he met Hamat Bah and Halifa Sallah and spent 31 days under security confinement. He adduced that he met some people who were alleged to have participated in the Farafenni and Kartong attack respectively.
He told the Commission that Sanna Sabally had personally arrested him about 4 to 5 times and each time he came to arrest him, he would torture him before his family. He also said his wife was detained twice at the NIA headquarters in Banjul. He mentioned some of his friends who were also tortured by the APRC government for associating with him.
He said Jammeh had on several occasions offered him positions but he refused to accept them. He said he told Jammeh and the delegation he used to send to him that he had sworn that he won’t be a part of a government that does not derive its powers from the people.
“I have forgiven all those who tortured me,” OJ concluded.