By Nelson Manneh
Prison is a place for correction, but for the Gambia’s prison system under the past regime, it was a place for torture and abuses of people’s human rights.
Several witnesses testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) and gave horrific account of the maltreatment of inmates in Mile 2 by prison wardens.
59-year-old Samba Doro Bah testified on Monday and Tuesday before the truth commission regarding his experience in Mile 2. He said prison wardens view inmates as animals.
Denial of Medical Care to Inmates
Samba Doro Bah, who has so far spent sixteen years in prison for the life term imprisonment sentence imposed on him by the Court, said inmates were denied medical care during the previous regime.
“I knew a lot of people who died in Mile 2 because they were denied medical assistance among them include Gumanneh, Abdoulie Jallow, and Buba Ceesay from Bansang,” the witness alleged.
The URR born testified Gumanneh was left inside the cell suffering from Beriberi until it was too late and they took him to hospital, but he subsequently died.
Doro Bah, who called himself as the ‘Chief Mess Boy’ said he has been detained in all the wings in Mile, adding he knows Mile 2 to his fingertips. He said he sometimes performs the role of prison wardens including serving inmates food.
The 59-year-old witness said he was accused of murder and armed robbery and he was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The witness said he was arrested in 2004 in his residence in URR and was tortured by the officers before he was taken to the Basse Police Station.
He said on the day of his arrest, he was on his farmland and was informed that his compound was surrounded by paramilitary personnel and he decided to go back to his house to see whether it was true.
He said when he reached home, he met security personnel there and one of them asked whether he was the owner of the compound and he responded in the positive.
“One Mr Mendy removed his knife and struck me on my head and the other policemen fell on me and beat me,” he said.
The witness said he was beaten and tied up in the presence of his wife and children. He said he was thrown behind a police truck and drove to the Basse Police Station without telling him the crime he committed.
He said when they reached Basse Police Station, he was told by one Farama Jallow who was the then Commissioner of Police in Basse that he was part of those who killed a woman in Basse.
He said when they reached the police station, the Alkalo of Basse went to the station and told the police that he is their son and he is not a criminal, but they refused to listen to him.
He said Farama Jallow, one Mr Mendy, one Omar Dumbuya and the driver later took him to the rice fields in Basse. Farama Jallow sent the driver to go and buy acid.
“When the driver came with the acid, they tied me up and Farama Jallow opened the bottle and dip a stick inside the acid and put the acid inside my anus,” the witness said.
He said the acid rolled to his private parts and from that day on, his manhood was damaged. The witness said he still suffers from the incident.
He said he spent five months at Basse Police Station and was later arraigned before the Basse Magistrate’s Court before one Magistrate Baldeh who remanded him at the Janjangbureh Prison.
He said his family members attempted to visit him at the Police Station in Basse, but Farama Jallow refused to allow them to see him.
“Farama Jallow told my son that I will be killed,” the witness alleged.
He said he was moved from Janjanbureh prisons to Mile 2, but on the way to Banjul, he was beaten by the prison wardens.
Bah said when he arrived at Mile 2, he was taken straight to the Confinement Wing where he spent a year and six months.
“I spent one year six months in cuffs and shackles and I was under sealed,” he said.
He said when taking bath, the prison wardens used to remove the hand cuff while the shackles were left on his legs. He said Lamin Sowe alias Jumbo was part of those who tortured him and put him under such condition.
Condition and Torture of Inmates at Mile 2
He testified that the food that was served to inmates was very bad particularly the Pap.
He said in those days, inmates used to contract sicknesses he never saw outside Mile 2.
“The prison has no medicine. It once happened to me I was sick and the Warden at the medic told me that there was no medicine,” he said.
The witness said the only changes that took place at the prison after the change of Government in 2016 is that the inmates are now served full bread instead of half bread.
The witness said one Yaya Jarju (Sefla) was the one who gave orders for inmates to be brought out from cells and be beaten.
“One Ebrima, Lamin Jah, Soreba Conteh, Ousman Nickle among others were beaten under the orders of Yaya Jarju,” he alleged.
He said the team of torturers at Mile 2 included one Ebrima Jammeh renowned as the Chief Torturer by inmates, Yaya Jarju alias Safla, P.O Jabbie.
Witness Bah said around David Colley’s Office, there was a place called ‘Talk-True’ adding it was a place where the prison wardens used to torture inmates by covering their heads with nylon bags, handcuffed them before beginning the beating.
He said there was a time when he was detained with 8 prison wardens in the same cell, adding they were severely beaten before putting them in the cell.
The witness said the reason why some prison wardens were beaten is because some they were merciful and they can give money and other things to inmates.
Attempt on Baba Jobe’s Life
The witness testified that there was a time when Yahya Jammeh the former president ordered for one Aziz Tamba to be arrested and taken to Mile 2 Prison to assist him (Yahya Jammeh) to Kill Baba Jobe.
He said in those days every morning when prison wardens opened their cells, Aziz Tamba would go to Baba Jobe’s cell to chat with him.
He said there was a day when David Colley called Aziz Tamba to his office and he (Aziz) spent the whole day inside David’s Office.
He said when Aziz Tamba returned to the prison from David’s Office, he (Tamba) told him that the food given to Baba Jobe is not good for him. He added that Aziz made arrangements for Baba Jobe’s food to be cooked by Baba’s wife.
He said initially Baba refused to take the arrangements because he (Baba) said he suspected that Tamba is in Mile 2 to kill him.
“Baba Jobes’s food always has meat. The first day the food was brought for him (Baba) he called me and when I went there I told Baba not to eat the food but Baba told me that he has already eaten some meat on the food,” he said.
The witness said he told Baba to keep the food till the following morning and the following day when the bowl was opened, the food turned to black. Bah told the Commission three days later, Baba’s body started to produce lypoma on his body. The witness said Baba was taken to hospital and was admitted there for three days and was later confirmed dead.
The witness said despite him being alive and talking he is also sick. He said he doesn’t eat much, but his stomach is always full.
“I got this sickness at the Confinement Wing in Jeshwang because that place is not completed and inmates are put inside those cells which are not completed,” he said.