By Momodou Jarju
Ya Bajen Ceesay Jaiteh, the younger sister of late Ousman Koro Ceesay, said their mother, Fatoumatta Sanyang, lost consciousness when she heard the death of her only son. Koro Ceesay was the then finance minister at the time.
In her testimony yesterday via skype before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Bajen said her heart almost stopped when she heard the sad news, saying she was emotionally numbed and at the same time worried about their mum’s situation.
She said the information she received from Yundum Police Station was that Koro was burned beyond recognition, saying at first they weren’t sure it was her brother said to be dead involved in a car accident.
Bajen, former nurse of the RVTH, said the atmosphere was sheer pandemonium and and they did not receive any phone call or information about the death of Koro from the government up to date.
She said Lt. Edward Singhatey, Lt. Peter Singhatey and Lt. Yankuba Touray were the three individuals identified by people to be the murderers of Koro. She said according to rumors circulating in town, Koro was killed at Yankuba Touray’s house and later taken to Jambur where he was burnt to death by the aforementioned lieutenants.
Bajen said she didn’t see any of the three lieutenants at the time but she heard people saying they saw Lt. Peter Singhatey administer bandage on his hand.
At The Mortuary
Bajen said at the mortuary she did see neither the head nor a limb of Koro Ceesay. She added that their mum, Fatoumatta Sanyang and dad, Sainey Ceesay, were advised not to see the remains of their son at the time.
Bajen said she looked into an empty bag of rice where it was said the skull of Koro was in but she said what she saw did not resemble a human skull. She said on Sunday 25 June 1995 there was a bit of restriction and she had to force herself in.
Testifying further, Bajen said some people who identified themselves as a delegation from the government headed by Lt. Edward Singhatey and Lt. Yankuba Touray, came to their home to give their condolences.
But she said their mum refused to acknowledge the delegation’s offer describing their visit as disrespectful. She said Lt. Edward Singhatey knelt before her mum, extended his hand to her mum’s hand and said accept my sympathy.
“My mum said you have some nerves to come here and extend your condolences after you killed my son. He did not respond he just stayed quite. But as he knelt down his other hand he just set an envelope which I believe there is some money in it. I didn’t see it but he set down an envelope on the mat next to my mum. So my mum just grabbed the envelope and threw it towards his entourage where one of the guys picked up,” she said.
She said when her mum did that, she looked into Lt. Singhatey’s eyes and told him just like Julius Caesar spirit came back to the people that killed him, Koro’s spirit would hunt each and every one of them. She said suddently, Lt. Singhatey quickly withdrew his hand from her mum and stood up for a second then walked away later.
Thereafter, she said the entourage turned to leave and people were shouting at them saying “bye-bye, go away killers,” in the Mandinka local language.
The following day, Monday 26 June 1995, Bajen said it was the burial day which she attended and her mum, who did not go and dad, gave her cloth for her to wrap the remains of Koro which she did, adding that she prayed for her brother even though she was still skeptical about the narratives of his death.
According to her, the burial was full of people and after the burial, she left for home.
Week after the funeral, Bajen said Lt. Yahya Jammeh with Lamin Kaba Bajo and others, came to their home to offer his condolence to the family, saying Lt. Jammeh said he would not let no stone unturned about Koro’s death.
She explained that Lt. Jammeh showed lit bit of empathy and even pretended to care by crying while expressing his regret saying Koro was like a brother to him. Bajen said she was skeptical about Lt. Jammeh’s assertions.
After that, she said they did not receive any information about ongoing investigation, however, she said they made effort to meet Lt. Jammeh at State House which was made possible on 1 August 1995. She it was herself and aunty Isatou, who met Lt. Jammeh escorted by Lamin Kaba Bajo. When they got in, Bajen said she asked Lt. Jammeh why they killed her brother but Lt. Jammeh said they did not kill Koro.
“He looked at me and said we do not do that. We suspect the Jawara regime. And I looked at him and said why would the Jawara regime do that? What connection has Koro to do with them and why would they want Koro death. He did not respond to that question,” she explained.
She said Lt. Jammeh said he heard that she was the stubborn nurse.
Bajen said before they left without any information of Koro’s death, she told Lt. Jammeh to call their parents and update them about the so-called ongoing investigation which he adhered to. She said Jammeh called twice to talk to her mum but she yelled at Lt. Jammeh on both occasion and told him not to call again, which Lt. Jammeh also adhered to.
She also recalled going to the scene of the purported accident and found a bond that resembles a broken ribcage which she took home and saw it to their mum who shed lot of tears. Upon receiving the bond however, she said her mum said: “At least I have something of my boy.”
Bajen further testified that their parent weren’t happy with the money Lt. Jammeh gave as a contribution for the 40 days charity of Koro’s death. She recalled that her mum in particular insisted that the money would not be used in the family, so family relatives suggested that the money be given to neighboring mosques as charity which was done.
Before Koro’s Death
Bajen recalled telling Koro to be careful and he told her not to be worry, adding that Koro was a tight-lipped person who hardly discusses about his work with people.
Bajen recalled Koro telling their mum that Lt. Edward Singhatey threatened to kill him at the time and their mum asked Koro to quit the job but he insisted, and assured them that nothing was going to happen. She said this was towards the end of May 1995.
Bajen said she received a note from a prison guard called Abdoulie Bojang written by Captain Kambi, her then husband who was imprisoned at the time. She said the note warned her brother Koro to be careful of Lt. Edward Singhatey, describing him as a ruthless and dangerous man.
But Bajen said after she read the information, koro took the note from her, shredded it and threw it in the kitchen while she was cooking. She at that time Koro was working on the budget speech he was supposed to deliver at the parliament, adding that Koro spent hours just to make sure the speech was done. Bajen said Koro told her that when he was done with the budget speech, they would be proud of her.
She added that their father was worried about the rumor in town that Koro was about to uncover some financial discrepancies the Junta committed, monies owned by the Gambian populate.
Bajen said on 22 June 1995, Koro reached at home in the evening and met her alone, they had a chit-chat for about half hour and he left leaving her a message to relate his mum that he would return the following day. She said this was the last time she saw her brother, Koro.
23 June 1995
Bajen said Koro called home and spoke with their mum via cell phone telling her that he was seeing off the then Chairman of AFPRC Yahya Jammeh at the airport, who was heading to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She said Koro told their mum to prepare “naan mburu” and buy mango for him- his favorite food, so that when he get home, he would eat that.
But unfortunately, she said Koro never returned until 1am at night when their mum asked them to go to bed. Bajen said the following day around 1pm while they were having lunch, they received the news of Koro’s purported car accident.
“I heard my aunt in the background saying to my mum, I received a phone call saying Koro was death in an accident. My mum upon receiving the word ‘accident’, I just told my mum can I have the handset please. (She took a deep breath). She gave me the handset. I said ‘okay let me hang up the phone I would call the hospital’ because at the time I worked at the RVTH. So I dialled the RVTH straight to the accident and the emergency unit. I asked them if there were any accident reported, I was told there was no accident reported,” she explained.
She said because no accident was reported at the hospital, she decided to call Brikama police station because the accident was said to be around that end, and she was responded in the negative. Then, she called Yundum police station and asked about the matter and the guy responded in the positive.
“I asked him ‘was it a black Mercedes Benz’, he said yes. I asked again ‘was it GG 1322’, he said ‘yes’. And then my next question was; ‘where is the victim?’ The gentleman just told me over the phone, not knowing who he was speaking to, he said ‘the victim was burned’… ‘he is dead,” she said.
Bajen said Koro and colleagues formed the Quantum Associates in 1994 before he was approached by the Junta to serve the AFPRC in March 1995.
Aftermath of Koro’s Death
Bajen said her brother’s death impacted seriously on the entire family. She said their dad was a strong man, but at times he would sit early in the morning, stared at Koro’s picture and cry. She added that Koro was their mother’s confidant and their mum was so devastated to have lost her closest friend and only son.
She said the entire family yearned and longed for justice to be served to the perpetrators of Koro’s death but to no avail until their dad and mum passed away. However, she thanked the truth commission for their work and hoped for the best.
Currently, she is residing in United States of America where the family relocated years ago.