By Nelson Manneh
Mr. Alhagie Lang Ceesay, alias Kebba Dibba, told the TRRC on Tuesday 2nd February, 2021, that he was tortured by the former president’s henchmen and the personnel of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers.
Born in 1969 in Salekeni, he worked as Nurse in various parts of the country, including Basse Health Centre. Ceesay appeared before the Truth Commission in connection with his encounter with a group of Youths in Abuko Area and his subsequent encounter with the NIA.
Ceesay said on 12th August 2012 while on his way to pick up his belongings, he saw a vehicle in front of him and he horned so that the driver would allow him to pass. However, he said a group of people pounced on his vehicle and asked him to stop and allow cattle to pass. This was around Abuko.
According to him, when he attempted to explain to the people that he was rushing to cross the Ferry as he was supposed to be at Dakar Hospital the following day, those people, who stopped him began beating him with sticks. They were about 20 in number.
He said he had a knife in his car which he mainly used to slaughter his ram during Tobaski. During the course of the commotion, Ceesay said he pulled that knife and held one of them and told him that he can slaughter him there, but he was not out for trouble.
Mr. Ceesay testified that the said cattle belongs to Yahya Jammeh and upon arrival at Banjulinding Police Station, the police stopped him and asked him whether he had a weapon in his car and he responded in the affirmative. He said he was arrested at Banjulinding Police Station. He said he was told that he had a problem with Kanilai Family Farm led by Badou Bojang, whom he said after listening to him intimated to him that it was a misunderstanding. He said he was beaten at the Banjulinding Police Station, but he did not specify the people, who beat him.
“Most parts of my body were swollen including my neck,” he said.
The witness said after the incident, one Immigration Officer named ASP Alagie Ceesay told him that he was instructed to arrest him. Upon his arrest, they locked him up in a cell and he stood there the whole night, and the following day one Jobarteh took him to Abuko Station and handed him over to them.
“I told the station officer that I did not sleep the previous night and asked him to permit me to go home, rest and return to the Station after breaking my fast,” he said.
According to the witness, he was allowed to go home and when he reported back to the station, the SO made a call and within 10 minutes, a black tinted vehicle arrived with late Louis Gomez and one Ebou Sanyang from the NIA. He said on their way to the NIA headquarters, Ebou Sanyang, sat in his vehicle and told him to be patient with the NIA.
Witness Ceesay said upon arrival at the NIA, he was detained in a cell where he found two bottles, one of them was containing urine while the other one was empty. Mr. Ceesay recollected that he was later taken out of the Cell and one Pa Bojang told him to sit down and when he sat down, they surrounded him.
One of the officers asked him to remove his shirt while others grabbed his legs and hands and they began beating him seriously. Ceesay said while the beating was ongoing, his torturers were recording his statement at the same time. Thereafter, they told him that if he was asked whether he was beaten, let him respond in the negative.
“One Buba Jatta told me they have seen the truth, but can’t do anything about it,” he said, adding that the NIA knew about his torture.
The witness revealed that he was held at the Bambadinka Cell and while there, the NIA gave him an empty bottle to urinate in. Mr. Ceesay testified that his torturers we’re smelling alcohol and they were the ones who hurt him. He said he got lacerations on his body because of the torture.
“I later came to know that they were the Junglers,” he revealed.
The veteran nurse disclosed that he was later taken before a Panel and among the members of the Panel were General Saul Badjie and one Gajaga who told him that they were sent by Yahya Jammeh to interrogate him. During that process, they place a recorder and recorded his entire narrations. He said the former Deputy Director General at the NIA, late Louis Gomez, told him that he would be released because they had nothing against him.
“I was held incommunicado for 4 days, I did not have access to a lawyer, neither my family. While in detention, one of my brothers came to the NIA and both of us cried together for the first time we saw each other since I was held at the NIA,” he said.
According to him, NIA Operatives Lamin Ceesay and Ebou Sanyang escorted him to the Serious Crime Unit of Gambia Police Force. However at the Police Headquarters, the Police were reluctant to take the case because it was ‘below’ them, which warranted him to be taken back to Abuko Station.
He said upon his arrival, the officer assigned to take his statement refused to complete it, which warranted him to write his statement by himself. Still lingering within the Police, the SO of Abuko contacted the Bundung Station, where he was later transferred to and subsequently granted bail. Mr. Ceesay said he was later told that he intended to stage a coup against Jammeh’s government.
“I was told that it was Pa Bojang who alleged that I was involved in a coup,” he said.
Mr. Ceesay was ultimately prosecuted and found wanting and was ordered to pay a fine of D1000 in default to serve one-month in prison.
“I eventually went to exile in Senegal and was there for 6 and a half years and only came back to The Gambia in 2017,” he said.
On the impact it had on him, Ceesay said his eldest son died and his family also got scattered. In his concluding remarks, he appealed to the Commission to consider his health status.