By Yankuba Jallow
Yunusa O.S. Ceesay, a follower of Sering Ndigal’s teachings has explained to the TRRC how the police chased them from their village during the reign of ex-President Jammeh for practising another form of Islam.
The 45 – year – old appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, 29th January 2020 in connection to the victimisation of the followers of renowned marabout Muhammad Habiboullah Secka – commonly called Sering Ndigal. Ndigal passed away in the year 2007.
He explained to the Commission how they were forcefully evicted from their village under the Jammeh regime, adding that when they sought justice from the courts and obtained an order to return and occupy their land, they did not get the support of the present government.
The Njaw born said they are Muslims but they practise another form of Islam different from the one people know. He said their spiritual leader, Sering Ndigal acquired the name ‘Ndigal’ which is a Wollof term meaning divine revelation.
Ceesay told the TRRC that the marabout was the Alkalo of Kerr Mot Hali.
Ceesay said his mother was born in Kerr Mot Hali which is just two Kilometres from his hometown, Njaw. He said during his early days he used to visit Kerr Mot Hali and he had interacted with Ndigal several times.
“I used to go to him (Ndigal) during my school times to help me with my exams,” Ceesay said.
Mr. Ceesay said the village (Kerr Mot Hali) was named after the founder Ali Secka who founded it in 1777.
Ceesay said Ndigal’s father installed him at the village in 1982 and he was the village head. He added when Ndigal came to the village, he was able to unite the members of the community because at the time he took over, there were some problems among the people living in the village.
He said Ndigal’s father, Sheikh Basirou Secka died in 1998 however Ndigal did not have any problems because he succeeded in what was entrusted to him by his father.
Yunusa said between the years 1998 and 2007, there was no connection between Ndigal and his paternal brothers. He told the TRRC that Ndigal’s brothers were residing in Touba Saloum.
He said the village has 81 compounds and that all of those who were living there were his followers.
Mr. Ceesay told the Commission that from 1998 to 2007, they did not have any problems neither was the village attacked. He said the problems started when they shifted from Sharia to ‘Hakikatul Munawara’.
“Ndigal’s relation with his brothers was not smooth because they wanted to take the village from him,” the witness said.
Ceesay said Ndigal’s brothers were jealous of him because he was taken to the Islamic school while they were not.
“Ndigal was accused by his brothers that he was dealing in drugs and he had a machine that makes money. They further accused him that he had weapons and wanted to overthrow Yahya Jammeh’s government,” he said.
Ceesay said in October 2002 Sering Ndigal was arrested by Police Commissioner 13 Badjie.
Mr. Ceesay said Ndigal was chatting with some people when Commissioner Badjie came with 34 paramilitary officers to arrest him.
Mr. Ceesay said Ndigal was arrested and taken to Farafenni. He added that after Ndigal’s arrest, Commissioner Badjie and his men returned to Kerr Mot Hali and conducted a search, but they did not find anything illegal.
He said from Farafenni, Ndigal was taken to the Police Headquarters. Continuing his testimony the witness was given the Observer Edition dated 31st October 2002 with the headline ” Police Arrest Self-Proclaimed God”. However, he said Sering Ndigal never called himself as God and he has never built any place of worship he called the Kaaba. He said there is a place of worship designated by Sering Ndigal where people go and seek blessing.
He said after Ndigal’s release, he came to Serrekunda in 2005 for dental treatment and many of his followers came to him but he was arrested by the police for gathering people without obtaining a permit. He added that Ndigal went to Senegal where he got the treatment.
Ceesay said after the demise of the Sering Ndigal in 2007 he was replaced by his son Sering Muhammadou Basirou Secka. He added that they still practiced the religion as they were taught by Ndigal.
Ceesay said in the year 2009, the half-brothers of Sering Ndigal came to Kerr Mot Hali with some of their students and told the residents of the village that they were going to renovate the community mosque. He added that the residents of Kerr Mot Hali refused the planned renovation of the mosque.
“We refused the renovation because we knew their motive,” he said.
He said Ndigal’s half-brothers came with ex-Governor of CRR Nganyi Touray, a police, Sainey Mbye the National Assembly member for Upper Saloum, Malick Mbye the Chief of the District and one man from an NGO that wanted to support them in the renovation. He said ex-Governor Touray told them that the mosque must be renovated.
He said paramilitary personnel came to the community asking them to shift allegiance from Muhammadou Basirou to one Sheikh Alieu Secka, who was a Senegalese.
Ceesay alleged that they were forced to shift allegiance to Alieu Secka, but the residents of Kerr Mot all refused the orders.
“Anyone who refused was tortured by the paramilitary,” Ceesay said.
He said they were arrested and taken to Njaw Police Station, adding that they were forced to pray by the police. He said some of them were detained at the said police station. He added that some were taken to Janjangbureh Prisons.
At this juncture, a video showing some of the sufferings they went through under the PIU Officers was played and admitted as exhibit. Some of the victims escaped and ran to the border. He said women, children, persons with disabilities all sought refuge in Kerr Mot Ali in Senegal where they are currently residing. He said their movements were also restricted by the Police.
About the witness
Mr.Ceesay said he was born on the 11th July 1975 in Njaw in Upper Saloum District in the Central River Region. He said he completed his primary school education in 1988 and proceeded to Tahir Ahamadiyaaa High School where he obtained his O’ Level in 1993. He said after schooling, he started a hardware business from 1993 to 1995 and later pursued a Diploma in Computer Management System. He said in 1999, he travelled to the United Kingdom where he obtained a Higher Diploma in Computing.
He said he studied computer management and from 2003 to 2008 he was working in the UK. He said in 2008, he returned to The Gambia and worked for MJ Bureau de Change till 2014 when he established his business that he named as Ndigal Financial Service.