By Nelson Manneh
Counsel Sagar C.T Jahateh on Wednesday, 8th July 2020 said the investigation unit of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has so far registered over forty accidents involving ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s convoy.
The TRRC’s recent theme is focused on former President Jammeh’s convoy accidents.
Mr. Lamin Saidykhan, a motorcade driver to President Jammeh’s administration, testified before the TRRC on Wednesday.
He was born on the 20th May 1968 in Jarra Sankuya in the Lower River Region. He joined the National Gendarmerie in 1991 and became a soldier when the Gendarmerie was amalgamated into the police. He added he was moved to Yundum Barracks, then to Fajara Barracks and finally to State House where he is now working as head of the Motor Traffic Office (MTO).
Saidykhan said he first began working as a motorcycle escort at the State House for the President’s convoy. He said while there, he played the role of a sweeper. He said after serving as a motorcycle escort at State House for one year, he approached the then Commander at State House and told him that he was a driver and wanted to go back to the drivers’ unit.
“Drivers at the State House were more than hundred because you have both the Military Drivers and Civilian Drivers and both of them were under one command,” he said.
Saidykhan said the convoy was always led by the sweeper and this sweeper had a radio which the commander used to communicate to the other drivers within the convoy.
He said former President Yahya Jammeh was aware of any accident that occurred during their trips because the vehicle he used to be had the same communication system.
He testified that two state house drivers were dismissed after the mother of Zainab Yahya Jammeh reported them to her daughter that they smoked when they escorted her to Dakar.
The witness said he took the position of acting Motor Traffic Officer (MTO) because no one was ready to take the position.
“In fact at that time no one was safe at the State House because anything can happen to you there,” he said.
He told the Commissioners of the TRRC that he was once locked at Fajara Barracks because he went to pray and caused some delay when the President wanted to go out.
“When General Saul Badjie was at the State House, he was not the Commander or Personal Protection Officer (PPO), but he had powers more than the Commander at the State House,” he said.
He said in those days, the President used to go out any time he wanted to and that in most instances he used to go to Kanalai at night.
“Whenever the President wanted to go out and the convoy was not set, that was a problem, you could be fired or taken to Mile 2,” he said.
He said he used to sometimes close from work around 8 pm and when he reached home, he would be called to go back to the State House.
“The speed of the convoy was always controlled by Yahya Jammeh (the former President),” he said.
The witness continued: “No matter how fast the convoy was moving, the President could say to the PPO ‘move out’, meaning the drivers should increase their speed’ and the PPO would do so.”
The witness said most of the accidents that happened during Yahya Jammeh’s 22-year reign, was mostly as a result of over speeding of the vehicles and the throwing of biscuits and T-shirts which people used to scramble for and in the process lose their lives.
The witness said the former President (Yahya Jammeh) was not concerned with accidents involving his convoy because he was aware of all the accidents that took place and yet kept mute about them.
He said the accidents that took place at the Buffer Zone and at Lamin Village were all caused by over speeding. He said President Jammeh’s convoy was not following the traffic rules; rather they were moving with the speed he (The President) wanted.
He said whenever the convoy was moving, the President would stand and throw the Biscuits and T-shirts and the vehicles behind would knock people. The witness said he witnessed over twenty accidents and it involved both adults and children.
He said whenever there was an accident, there was always an ambulance behind the convoy, adding the ambulance would stop and carry the individual.
He said the convoy never stopped whenever they knock people, adding some of the victims died.
The witness said one Foday, a civilian driver who was part of Jammeh’s convoy lost control of his vehicle while in the convoy and at the end somersaulted and eventually lost his life.
“Yahya Jammeh was always aware of all the accidents that took place and I never had him making comments with regards to them,” he said.
The witness said if the President (Yahya Jammeh) was passing and someone was sitting outside his or her compound, Umpa Mendy used to give instructions for the person to be given a VIP treatment. He said Mendy did this via the communication system in the vehicles.
“This VIP treatment means for the person to be tortured,” he said.
He said he was dismissed in 2012 and was not given any reason as to why he was dismissed.
The witness said he was reinstated when the new regime came in to existence in 2017.