By Nelson Manneh
A protected witness Wednesday, 16th July 2020, described Yahya Jammeh’s treatment programme as false since some of those who took the medicine and were said to have been cured by the latter, eventually died from HIV.
The witness, who claimed she was abandoned by her husband after she was confirmed to be HIV & AIDS positive, testified before the TRRC about her troubles after undergoing ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s treatment programme.
The Protected witness told the TRRC that she came to know that she was HIV/AIDS positive when she had an accident and was admitted at Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for a year and nine months. She said while undergoing treatment at the hospital, she was donated blood and after she was discharged from the hospital, her leg started disturbing her.
The witness said at the time of the accident, she was pregnant but the doctors did not give her ‘Fansida’ and other relevant drugs.
The witness told the Commission that shortly after she returned home, her leg continued to disturb her again and when she reported to a nearby hospital, both herself and her baby were said to be infected with HIV/AIDS.
She disclosed that when she had the accident, she was donated four litres of blood because she lost a lot of blood during the course of the accident.
The witness said prior to the accident, she was not diagnosed with the disease. The witness further told the commission that when she was tested positive, she decided to test all her children and husband respectively but they all tested negative.
She alleged that people used to donate blood without undergoing HIV & AIDS test adding that maybe the reason why she contracted the virus.
“After I was diagnosed with HIV, during the counselling, they advised me to take drugs and I was advised to stop suckling my baby,” she said.
She said she used to struggle to access the hospital because she was living in Foni. She added that the doctor advised her to transfer to the Greater Banjul Area so that she can easily access the hospital. Consequently, she started reporting at the Brikama Health Center.
On former President Jammeh’s alternative treatment program, the witness said one day when she reported to their office (Alatentu Society), she was told that Santa Yalla Support Society went to receive treatment from Jammeh.
Upon receipt of the information, she said she opted to go prior to pushing her own people to receive the treatment.
The witness said prior to joining the President alternative treatment programme, she was diagnosed by Dr. Malick Njie who collected her blood samples.
Thereafter, she said they were provided with accommodation at a big hall without any briefing on how the treatment would be administered and the following day, the bus arrived and took them to Banjul.
Upon arrival in Banjul, she said they were lined-up in the State House and Yahya Jammeh came out with one Dr Mbowe, one Dr Mariatou and one Dr Njie.
She said the former President rubbed lotion on their bodies and also gave them herbs to drink. She said the lotion looked like a ‘vaccine’.
“My child refused to take the medicine, I tried, by all means, to give it to him but he refused,” the witness said.
The witness continued; “The medicines Jammeh named Chakiry and Jinneh disturbed us a lot because after drinking the Chakiry, after one hour, you will have a running stomach or vomit it,” she said.
She said after drinking the herb called ‘Jinneh’, it would look as if the person had taken alcohol and it was the soldiers who would hold those affected by that medicine to avoid them from falling.
She said she spent two months at the alternative treatment program before she was sacked.
She said she was dismissed from the treatment programme when one of her Board Chair Person from the United Kingdom came to The Gambia and went to visit her at the Kanifing General Hospital.
She told the Commission that someone reported her to the former President that she invited people from the United Kingdom, but she said she explained to Yahya Jammeh that they were not there in connection with his treatment. Despite her explanation to the former President, the witness said the ex-head of state told her that he was not in good terms with the British. She added this was how she was ordered to go home by the ex-leader who told her that she will be called only if she is needed.
The witness said her health condition did not improve despite drinking Jammeh’s medicines.
She said while undergoing the HIV & AIDS treatment, her child was seriously sick and when former President Jammeh was informed about it, he said the child should be taken to the children ward of EFSTH, where she was told that the child had fever and malaria.
On whether the child drank Jammeh’s medicines, she responded in the positive but was quick to add that before the child took it, she used to struggle a lot.
“I spent 2 and a half months at the President’s treatment program,” she said.
She said while at home, she called the Doctor at Hands-on Care and appealed for the Doctor to allow her to continue her treatment at the hospital, but she was told that if she wanted to continue she would be tested again. She said her samples together with that of her son were collected and they were both confirmed HIV & AIDS positive.
As a result of that, she said she was advised to be taking ARV medication. She said when her people saw her on television, all of them were agitated and the news was transmitted from one person to another.
The witness adduced that some of her colleagues died during the course of the treatment while some others died after they were discharged. She said some of the survivors were reluctant to return to the hospital to continue with their treatment because they had already appeared on television saying they have been healed.
The witness confirmed that the names she gave to the commissioners of the TRRC in the protected sheet are the ones she knew died of Jammeh’s treatment program.
She added that when they were going to join the treatment program, they were hopeful that they will be cured but it turned out the case was exposing them to the whole world.
“Those who decided to go back to the hospital to continue with their treatment realized that it was untrue, that they were not cured and it was a fabrication,’ she said.
She said her husband and other family members have abandoned her and she had to go out and beg in the street for survival. The witness testified that she still finds it difficult to pay her rent.
She said during the course of the treatment, she was shown on Aljazeera and CNN.