By Momodou Jarju
The 27th witness of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Mafugie Sonko, yesterday March 28th 2019, received a cash donation of D175, 000 and piece of land in Sanyang village, during a presentation held at the Commission’s headquarters in Kotu.
Sonko who was an ex-private soldier and driver of the former Gambia Gendarmerie before joining Gambia National Army (GNA), testified on his 73rd birthday. Sonko revealed that he was detained for nine years after his arrest in the fateful night of November 11th 1994 alleged coup at the Yundum Barracks.
Sonko said he spent five years in incarceration at the Old Jeshwang prison’s remand wing and the remaining years at Mile 2 until his subsequent release from prison in 2003, without any trial.
A Gambian living in United Kingdom (UK) in the person of Yunus Hydara, organized a fund raising campaign called “Go Fund Me” for Sonko, which attracted a lot of interest from Gambians and the said amount of money was raised. The money aims to help him overcome some of the challenges he is grappled with.
Sonko after receiving the funds with his wife and son standing beside him, thanked all and sundry for raising such huge sum that he had never received in his lifetime. He prayed for every Gambian and including the Truth Commission.
Sonko in his statement planned to buy land from the money, because his elder brother sold his land during his incarceration. It was then the TRRC Lead Counsel Essa M Faal, announced that he will donate Sonko a piece of land in Sanyang village, and he can use the money to develop it.
Earlier on, Counsel Faal said they were just supporting the presentation but that the act was not part of the mandate of the TRRC. He said the money was a reward from Gambians who thought the testimonies Sonko made were truthful.
Counsel Faal further said this gesture is something that future witnesses should learn from, and endeavour to say the truth which the TRRC wish to accomplish.
“It should not be interpreted as reparations or as money being paid out by the TRRC. I think that is amply clear now. But may I hasten to add that Mr. Sonko is benefiting from it simply because of the appreciation of the Gambian people for coming out to speak truthfully, about what he knows to have happened and what he perceived to have happened, in the manner in which he understood,” he said; that he hoped Gambians will appreciate and encourage others who come before the Commission to really speak the truth. Faal equally emphasized that when people come to the Commission and lie, there are stiff penalties put in place to this effect.
The vice Chairperson of the TRRC Madam Adelaide Sosseh, said Sonko’s testimonies touched the Gambian hearts.
Baba Galleh Jallow, the Secretary General of the TRRC reiterated Counsel Faal’s statement that the money was not coming from TRRC, neither was it part of the reparations, nor was it an act of the Commission.
“So I just want to reiterate that this is not money coming from the TRRC. It is not an act of reparations, but is an act that we facilitate,” Jallow said.
Dr. Ismaila Ceesay, political science lecturer at the University of The Gambia (UTG) representing Yunus Hydara, said reparation is not only institutional saying Gambians can also take part in the process. “And to be honest, I think what Mafugie has gone through, all of us have gone through it, because I always believe that an injustice against one Gambian, is an injustice against all Gambians. When Mafugie was incarcerated in Mile II for crimes that he never committed, all of us were morally and ethically incarcerated with him, even though he felt the physical pain. But now we are feeling the moral and the psychological pain with him,” Dr. Ceesay said.