By Yankuba Jallow reporting from Sibanor
A survivor of Yahya Jammeh’s witch-hunt on Tuesday, 26th November 2019 alleged that Yahya Jammeh’s witch-hunters were torturing residents of Sintet at the time of their abduction.
Fatou Camara said the witch-hunters who came to Sintet included men dressed in all red, soldiers, paramilitary and Yahya Jammeh’s Green Boys.
In 2009, former President Yahya Jammeh brought a squadron of witch-hunters from Republic of Guinea and they went to communities and institutions searching for people who they called witches and wizards. Sintet was one of the communities that the witch-hunters invaded and abducted several people. It is adduced that all those who were abducted in Sintet were taken to former President Yahya Jammeh’s hometown of Kanilai where they spent some days under abduction. The witness said she was one of those who were abducted by the witch-hunters in the presence of her children.
The 62 – year – old said the day the witch-hunters came to Sintet coincided with the christening ceremony of her son’s child. She said she was captured while the naming ceremony was going on. She said the food that was prepared for the naming ceremony of her son’s christening ceremony was wasted because people dispersed and no one stayed; everyone left.
She said on this day, Sintet was surrounded by security personnel (soldiers) and no one was allowed to leave the village. The witness said they chased people who were trying to escape abduction.
“Some people were beaten. The paramilitary were the ones beating people. They chased people and they kicked them. This was how they were capturing people. They ran after some people just like they were pursuing animals. They captured many people. I was captured in my compound. The witch-hunters came to my compound with personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU). They pointed their mirrors at me and one of them told me that I am one of them (the witches). He told me I have to go with them to Kanilai. When I asked, he told me they were going to give me something, but they never told me what they were going to give me,” she said.
“I was not told what they were going to give me. I was abducted in the presence of my husband, but he wasn’t able to do anything about the situation,” she said.
The mother of 9 said she boarded on the back of a white pickup and she was taken to the bus. She said there were some people drumming and singing songs that the witches and wizards have been captured. According to her, the witch-hunters were breaking the doors of people’s houses. She said the squad of witch-hunters went round the whole village and captured several people. She added her husband’s first wife was caught by the witch-hunters.
“Her leg was paining her. She ran and was relaxing and it was where the witch-hunters found her,” she said.
The Sintet born said they were denied chance to pray the afternoon prayers. She said two buses and a truck were filled in Sintet by the abductees.
“Women were more than men,” she said.
The rice farmer told the Commission they were taken to a military post where they were given lunch. She said they were told by the soldiers that they have to eat before drinking the concoction because it was strong. She added that their names were recorded and the men and women were separated. She said the witch-hunters took their belongings including mobile phones and money.
She told the Commission that they were asked to undress naked and were bathed by a small boy.
“People were given concoction and we all drank it. People began falling down and they were lying motionless just like corpses,” she said.
She added they were given concoction on Monday at around 5 pm, adding the people who drank the concoction became unconscious for the whole night until the morning of the following day. According to her, the concoction was greenish in colour and it had leaves of plants. She said they were forced to chew the leaves of the plants in the concoction. She said after drinking the concoction and taking bath, the witch-hunters sprinkled some on their face. She said she drank two cups of the concoction in a tea cup.
She testified that those who drank the hallucinogenic concoction became unconscious and started behaving in strange ways.
She said after drinking the medicine on Monday at around 5 pm, she regained her senses on Tuesday morning.
She said thatTuesday, they were asked to say the names of people they have eaten.
“The Malians and soldiers asked us how many young men we took to marabouts and destroyed. They asked us how many people we have eaten,” she said.
She said they were all confused because they have no idea of witchcraft.
“People began giving them names ven though they did not eat any person. This was because they wanted to be freed. It was not their will, but we were all afraid. We were not there on our wish, so people began giving them names of people just to be freed,” she said.
She said those who refused to say what the witch-hunters wanted to hear were given the medicine (concoction) for the second time.
“After I told them I was not a witch and I did not take anyone to a marabout. They told me if I don’t tell them the number of people I have eaten, I will drink the concoction again. I refused to budge and I was taken to the room again and made to drink the concoction for the second time,” she said, adding that this was on Tuesday at around 2 pm.
She said her throat became dry and she was not able to speak loud. She said she was not able to walk and she crawled up to a concrete wall where she laid.
“I regained my psyche on Wednesday 2 pm. This is 24 hours after I drank the medicine,” she said.
She said after several interrogations, she was released and she returned to Sintet, adding they returned her belongings to her. She said a week later, Yahya Jammeh brought some bags of groundnut and the villagers were asked to remove the tusk from the seeds, but with the warning that no one should eat a seed from it.
“All those who were taken to Kanilai were asked to do this and after completing the work, we all took the seeds to the Alkalo,” she said.
She said Yahya Jammeh asked all those who drank the medicine (concoction) to provide him with a bag of salt and that he was going to provide each person with two bags of rice in exchange.
“We all provided him with bags of salt, but we were not given any bag of rice as promised,” she said.
She said she spent three (3) months under treatment before she regained her health.
“I really suffered. Currently, I can’t work in the farm. Since I drank this medicine (concoction), I cannot work in the farm for the past five years,” she said.
She said she used to feed her family from her agricultural activities, but she has not been able to do so now.
“They now provide everything for me. I cannot provide anything for my family now. My eyes have problems and my waist gives me a big problem,” she said.
She said all these problems came after she drank the concoction. She said her elder brother spent over D50,000 on her treatment in addition to other expenditures her family and relatives incurred.