By Yankuba Jallow & Mariama Marong
Ex-deputy director of operations at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has admitted that he led the team that buried UDP’s Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
On his third day of his testimony, Sir Jeng said the instruction to bury the politician emanated from the director general of NIA – Yankuba Badjie who also received the command from former President Yahya Jammeh.
Jeng said Sandeng was buried at the NIA complex at Tanji adding he led the funeral prayers for the deceased. He commenced his defense on Monday and this was his third day in court.
Jeng together with some intelligence officers are facing 25 criminal charges including the murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, who was identified as the ring leader of the 14th April 2016 demonstration at Westfield.
Below is Jeng’s testimony on 16th December 2020 before Justice Kumba Sillah-Camara of the Banjul High Court. He continued from where he stopped yesterday.
Jeng: “As I was coming out of the deputy director general’s office, I over heard screams coming from the Investigation Department Area which was not far from the administration area. I went there to enquire and found about five masked men again supposedly the same group I encountered earlier even though I couldn’t confirm. As I approached the room they were, one of them yelled at me and asked “what can I do for you?” And I said nothing. And before I withdrew from there, I saw some people whipping someone with what was like hose pipe. I went back to deputy director general’s office in fury and asked him, “Sir, what is happening there and he said to me in Wollof ‘ah! SOJ [referring to Sheikh Omar Jeng], this is what we have all seen together.” He [the deputy director general] further added in Wollof again “have you forgotten that your current boss – Yankuba Badjie was also dealt with by the same masked men who came here and beat him and left”.
I was dismayed.
What happened next?
I was dismayed after what I saw and the response I got from the people I look up to, given that I have just returned from serving the most reputable institution in this World – which is the United Nations where standards are upheld. I went to my office, spread my small mattress and lied down going over it until I slept.
What time did you eventually wake up?
I am not sure because I didn’t look at my watch. But given the sequence of events that happened afterwards, I will say it was around 4 am when the 8th accused person – Lamin Darboe knocked at my office door and woke me up. He [Darboe] said he was going round to check the lighting system and discovered what looked like a lifeless body lying outside the Investigation Department. He [referring to Darboe] told me in Mandinka “Sir, you are sleeping here when everybody has gone home.” I followed him to see what he discovered outside the Investigation Department. I went with him and discovered the lifeless body of who was later identified as Ebrima Solo Sandeng lying on the Bahamas grass just outside the investigation department. I have not known Solo before, but I recognised him from when he was heralded into the PIU headquarters by some police officers.
He [Solo Sandeng] wore only a pair of boxers and had no shirt. I bent down murmuring and called his name severally, but he didn’t respond. Instinctively, I took a scarf that was around my neck, placed it over his mouth and groom some air. I didn’t know what made me do that, but at that instant it was only CBR that came to my mind. However, what I discovered was when I groomed air into his mouth the response I got in return was a whizzing sound like when someone is under asthmatic attack.
I called the few officers including the security guards who were present.
Do you recall their names?
Yes, my lady. Lamin Darboe was one of them, Yusupha Jammeh was one of them, Yankuba Jallow was the driver for Yusupha, Sheikh Tijan Camara and Bara Gaye who were both prosecution witnesses in this case. I asked them to move the lifeless body into the guard room and place him under the fan. One of them discovered his clothes around the vicinity and they covered him with the clothes. I called the deputy director general, the late Louise Leese Richard Gomez and briefed him on what happened. He [referring to Louise] told me to call the director general because he was not feeling fine. I called the director general, Mr Yankuba Badjie – the 1staccused in this case and he instructed me to summon the medic – Lamin Lang Sanyang. I sent a vehicle to pick Lamin Lang Sanyang from his residence in Brikama. He arrived and examined the body. For the records, that was the first time I saw Lamin Lang Sanyang on that day. After his examination, Lamin Lang Sanyang told me that the vital sides of the lifeless body of Solo Sandeng were nil. He [referring to Sanyang] said Ebrima Solo Sandeng was dead.
I immediately stepped out and called the DG Yankuba Badjie and he asked if it was confirmed that he is dead. Sanyang and myself confirmed that indeed he was dead. The Director General asked me to hang up and that he will get back to me because he needed to brief his boss, the President. The President was Yahya Jammeh.
Did the 1st Accused get back to you?
Yes, my lady. The 1st accused got back to me and that he has reported to the President – his boss Yahya Jammeh and that Jammeh has specifically instructed that the body be buried.
Lawyer Antouman AB Gaye for the prosecution objected saying what Jeng stated was hearsay which came from a third party. Lawyer Sydney Kenedy maintained that the evidence was direct and not hearsay as contended by the prosecution lawyer.
The trial Judge ruled that the part of Jeng’s testimony concerning what the director general narrated about what the President told him was hearsay and inadmissible.
What was the instruction that you received?
The 1st accused instructed me to lead a team to bury the body on the order of the President.
At first I protested, by telling the DG that procedurally we should take the body to the mortuary which he acknowledged and asked that I give him time to consult with his boss – the President and get back to me. After few minutes he called me again and said “go ahead with the burial. It is an Executive Order.”
The prosecution lawyer also objected saying it is hearsay. Lawyer Kenedy argued the evidence cannot be regarded as hearsay because the witness narrated his conversation with his boss, the director general. At this point, Lawyer Gaye withdrew the objection.
“Following the latest instruction, I mobilised the officers who were present who were made up of the patrol team and a few members of the Special Operations Team.”
Could you state the names of some of them?
Yes, my lady. Myself Sheikh Omar Jeng, Lamin Lang Sanyang, Yusupha Jammeh who was the 5th accused person in this trial, but was discharged, Dawda Ndour who was prosecution witness 1 in this trial, Sheikh Tijan Camara who was also a prosecution witness in this case, Yankuba Jallow, Leon Gomez and I am not sure, but I think Haruna Suso.
After you mobilised the team, what happened next?
We drove to the NIA Coastal Command Complex in Tanji which is a government facility and buried the late Solo Sandeng dead. After, I personally led a Janazah [funeral prayer] for him. We were between 14 and 20 and everybody who went with me on that day directly participated in the burial. Thereafter, I assigned one vehicle to return the medic to Brikama where he lived and I instructed the rest of the patrol team to go to their exchange points and hand over to the incoming shift because their shift was to end at 8 am. When we all dispersed, I went home to my family.
The matter was adjourned to the 11th January 2021 at 1 pm for the continuation of hearing of Sheikh Omar’s testimony.