By Yankuba Jallow
Omar Fofana said his father’s demise was caused by the pain he underwent as a result of Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana’s arrest and detention.
Omar testified on Thursday, 30th January 2020 before the TRRC on his victimisation and that of his elder brother, Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) was established by an Act of the National Assembly to investigate past human rights violations under the regime of Yahya Jammeh and to contribute to seeking justice for the victims of his regime. The TRRC mandate extends beyond investigative functions to include the responsibility of designing a national reparation program that will contribute to repairing the harm done to victims of human rights violations. The TRRC mandate also includes the option of recommending prosecution or amnesty for alleged perpetrators.
He said on the 18th May 2012, Imam Abdoulie Fatty of the State House made a Friday sermon saying many things before the former head of state Yahya Jammeh against the personality of Ba Kawsu. He added that former director-general of the NIA, Yankuba Badjie went to their home together with some people but they did not find Ba Kawsu there. He added that the NIA arresting officers called Ba Kawsu asking him for his whereabouts. The witness said Ba Kawsu was arrested together with one of his students Adama Saidy in Brikama at the compound of one Sillah where he was found preaching.
“Ba Kawsu told them where he was exactly and they went and picked him from there (in Brikama where he was preaching),” he said.
He said in the evening he went to the NIA headquarters in Banjul to inquire about Ba Kawsu’s whereabout.
“I was communicating with Ba Kawsu while they were going with him. He told me that he was being taken to ‘Bambadinka’,” he said.
He said the NIA denied having Ba Kawsu under their custody and they referred him to the police CID at the Police Headquarters. He added that when he went to the CID unit of the police headquarters, they told him that Ba Kawsu was not under their custody and they asked him to come back the following day.
He said when he returned home, he told their father that Ba Kawsu was missing and this contributed to their father’s demise.
“My father was a high blood patient. The missing of Ba Kawsu contributed to the demise of my father. My father did not see Ba Kawsu until he died,” the witness said.
He said Adama Saidy was released on the same day of their arrest and he was given Ba Kawsu’s Koran to take home while Ba Kawsu was detained.
He said on the fourth day of Ba Kawsu’s arrest, his daughter died, after a brick fell on her chest which she couldn’t survive. He said he used to go to the NIA every day to inquire about Ba Kawsu.
“I was warned not to go there anymore. I was threatened by the NIA that if I go there whatever I get is my cause,” he said.
He said Ba Kawsu spent 9 days at ‘Bambadinka’ before was released. He said Dr. Ngogu Bah, the Secretary-General and Head of Civil Service, Yankuba Badjie, director general NIA and Sukuta Jammeh, an NIA operative and resident of Bakau among others were present when Ba Kawsu was granted bail on a bond of D50,000 and a national identity card.
The witness said Ba Kawsu was in bad shape when he was released by the NIA, adding that his finger was broken.
“Ba Kawsu told us that he was beaten over a hundred and fifty strokes,” the witness said.
He said Ba Kawsu told him that his torturers videoed their actions on him.
He said Ba Kawsu was rearrested August 2012; which was in Ramadan and it was 3 months after his first arrest. He said ex-DG NIA Yankuba Badjie together with Louise Gomez, the then head of the NIA at the State House came with 2 vehicles full with people around 10 to 11 at night to arrest Ba Kawsu.
“Yankuba told Ba Kawsu that he was sent by the President to come and pick him; that there is a ‘Gamo’at the State House. Yankuba said the President wanted to apologise to Ba Kawsu for humiliating him publicly and he wished to reconcile Ba Kawsu and the Council,” the witness said.
He said Ba Kawsu was doing a 40 – day prayers and he told Yankuba Badjie that he cannot terminate the prayers for any purpose.
“Yankuba told Ba Kawsu that he cannot leave him behind because it was the request of the President,” the witness said.
He said Ba Kawsu disappeared and he was nowhere to be seen.
“They did not see Ba Kawsu until he returned from exile in Senegal,” he said.
“They put me in hand cuff and they arrested me. They took me barefooted. They released me before we reached Bakoteh Tipper Garage. They warned me not to talk to the media about the incident,” he said.
He said Ba Kawsu spent 2 nights in The Gambia and fled to Senegal. He explained that before Ba Kawsu left the country, he called home and he told them where he was. He told the Commission that Ba Kawsu left the Gambia via the trans-Gambia through Silleti with his two closed-students Siaka Saidy and Abdoulie Fatty alias Abou Fatty (different from Imam Abdoulie Fatty of the State House). He said Ba Kawsu went to a place called Tasliman in the Casamance region in Senegal.
The witness said the NIA made several attempts to bring back Ba Kawsu, but their efforts were not successful.
On his own victimisation, the witness said he was also detained at ‘Bambadinka’ when he quarrelled with one NIA officer. He said the quarrel was as a result of a lost mobile phone that her sister’s taxi driver was accused of stealing by a passenger. He added that the NIA took him to their headquarters and detained him there for a night.
“I was tortured very seriously. I was forced to do ‘monkey-dance’ and I was made to crawl,” he said.