By Mustapha Jallow
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has indicated in its final report that former President Yahya Jammeh was the architect of the Junglers- a hit-squad that killed and tortured his opponents.
“He created it to kill, torture or punish persons he perceived to be his enemies. He also used state resources to pay their salaries and maintain them even though many of them were never going to work regularly,” said the commission.
“Eight former Junglers confessed before the commission for their involvement in murdering more than eighty (80) individuals on the orders of Yahya Jammeh. They also admitted torturing detainees at the NIA and Mile II prisons.”
The truth commission also held that ex-president Jammeh, his hit-squad known as “Junglers” and his once feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were responsible for the killings, tortures, forcibly disappearance and perpetrating other forms of inhuman treatment and rights abuses.
The truth body explained that the patrol team was selected from The Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) and set up by ex- president Jammeh. It said Jammeh was also responsible for organizing and coordinating the activities of the Junglers through a command structure that was directly answerable to him through General Sulayman (Saul) Badjie.
Meanwhile, the one-time feared General Saul Badjie and other close aides of Jammeh have recently returned to the country.
“22 years of former President Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorial rule was characterised by heinous human rights violations ranging from enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary killings and unlawful detentions. These were systemically carried out by the state security apparatus such as the National Intelligence Agnency (NIA), The Gambia Police Force and the Gambia National Army, pursuant to a state orchestrated policy, to deliberately silence any form of opposition and threat to Yahya Jammeh’s reign,” the truth commission revealed.
The commission said NIA headquarters became Jammeh’s personal property, saying staff of the agency felt that they were above the law and that they were accountable to only ex-dictator Jammeh.
The agency’s staff invaded the lives of the members of the public; including spying on them, arbitrary arrests and detention of people without reasonable or justifiable basis and often beyond the constitutionally acceptable timelines. The intelligence agency, according to the report was also used as a torture chamber, where political, civilian, security, government and journalists’ detainees were severely beatings almost to death by the ‘Junglers’ or NIA operatives themselves.
The commission indicated that most victims of unlawful killings by the Junglers fall under those perceived by Jammeh to be security threats, such as Dawda Nyassi, the West African migrants, Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham, Daba Marenah and his group including Ebou Lowe, Alpha Bah, Alieu Ceesay and Malafi Corr, Ebou Jobe and Mamut Ceesay and so on.
According to the TRRC, by creating this group that was committing massive violations of human rights and serious crimes with impunity, ex-president Jammeh is individually responsible for the crimes they committed.
The commission report said Jammeh issued the operational orders to the Junglers through the commanders of the group, noting that initially, Tumbul Tamba and after his demise, Gen. Sulayman Badjie provided direction and guidance to the group, after receiving orders from the former President Jammeh.
Highlighting the man who masterminded or trained on the extrajudicial activities of this ruthless group – was one Francisco Caso, an Italian “mafia” who came to The Gambia as a tourist. TRRC said the Italian mafia conducted the maiden training programme for a small group of soldiers from the Gambian National Army.
According to the commission, it was believed that Francisco Caso was introduced to Almamo Manneh, who sought his assistance to plan a coup against Jammeh in 2000. However, the commission added that he (Francisco) betrayed Almamo Manneh and reported the coup plans to the NIA, saying he used this opportunity to portray himself as a competent and highly skilled military officer to entice the NIA.
“He was eventually hired to train a specialised group of soldiers. He was brought to the President and recommended by Abdoulie Kujabi, NIA Director General at the time,” said the commission.
During the training, Gambia truth commission explained that live ammunition was used and the soldiers were equipped with skills to kill, saying the criteria for selection of soldiers to the Jungler training largely depended on presupposed and perceived loyalty to President Jammeh.
It said the first group of soldiers that participated in this training were Famara Camara, Alieu Bojang, Lamin Senghore (Assassin), Bubacarr Bojang, Momodou Lamin Tamba, Paul Bojang, Ousman Sanneh, Famara Sanneh (Zircon), Wally Nyang and Ismaila Jammeh.
The commission report said some of the soldiers who participated in the commando course were: Momodou Sanneh, Captain Modou Jallow, Jola Morro, Mawlud Colley, Sheriff Gisseh, Sheik Omar Jeng, Biran Negett, Jerreh Sissawo, Alagie Chorr, Alieu Ceesay, Malick Jatta, Captain Mustapha Faal, Sanna Manjang, Pharing Sanyang and Saihou Jallow.
These two groups “Junglers” and Commandos were eventually merged into a single group and directly answerable to Jammeh, assigning them to eliminate each of his opponents. The commission said some initial assignments were to serve as spies whenever the President’s convoy was travelling and report any suspicious activities and conversations.
Moreover, the truth body reported that some Junglers / Patrol Team members were permanently based in Kanilai, at Jammeh’s residence while others were stationed at Baba Jobe’s (former close associate of Jammeh) former residence in Kololi. It said others were also stationed at the State House as Close Protection Officers of the President.