By Yankuba Jallow
Nyima Jarju said she was detained in a cell with her 3 months baby and her mother in-law at the Sibanor Police Station.
Nyima Jarju appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) together with her husband Lamin Badjie in connection with what happened to their family before, during and after the 2009 witch-hunting. These witch-hunters were descending on communities and public offices abducting people with the use of their mirrors which they used to point at people.
Madame Jarju said she was arrested together with her mother in-law and her 3 months baby. She said she was detained in a cell at the Sibanor Police Station together with her baby and her mother in-law.
The 36 – year – old said the police from Sibanor Police Station first arrested her mother in-law at home who came with them to the garden where she was found working.
“They arrested us because they couldn’t arrest my father in-law who was their primary target. They detained us without food and water on the first night. I was put in a cell with my 3 months baby,” she said.
The mother of five said while they were at the Sibanor Police Station, they were asked the whereabouts of Bully Badjie – her father in-law.
“They later spread a carton behind their counter and told us to sit on it. When it was time to sleep, they asked us to spread a mat – I took my head tie and spread it on the mat where we spent our night. We were put in a cell and we did not have dinner that night. I was in the cell with my baby. There was no ventilation in the cell. I spent the night with my baby,” she said.
She testified that she was detained at Sibanor Police Station for one week and all this while, she was with her 3 months baby.
She said they decided to maltreat Bully’s family because they could not get him.
“We really suffered at that place because during the night, the mosquitoes were around, we had to keep on fanning ourselves,” she said.
She said when they were released, her mother in-law couldn’t survive it and she died later.
Lamin Badjie said he used to work on former President Jammeh’s farm and was involved in mobilizing people to work on the farm. He said on the day of the witch-hunt, he was mobilizing people to go to work on former President Jammeh’s farm. He said the witch-hunters came with former Major Solo Bojang of the Gambia Armed Forces to Sintet along with some Green Boys and Girls.
The 44 – year – old said his father (Bully Badjie) was subjected to several humiliations by the former government.
“They don’t like my father. This was because he had several lands. My father was betrayed several times,” Badjie said.
He said his father was forced to inhale smoke by one marabout called Tambajiro under the escort of Solo Bojang with soldiers and some personnel of the Police Intervention Unit. Badjie said the marabout was brought to identify witches and wizards.
“This was before 2009 witch-hunt exercise,” he said.
The witness said on the day Tambijiro abducted his father and forced him to inhale smoke, he was busy mobilizing people to work on the farmland of former President Jammeh.
“When I came from the former President’s farm in Kanilai, I came home at Sintet. I found my father in a state of distress and when I asked him what happened, he said it was Tambajiro who forced him to inhale smoke on the pretext that he was a wizard,” the witness said.
The witness was living in shame after his father was forced to inhale smoke because he was termed a wizard.
“When I heard about this against my father, I was completely displeased,” he said.
Lamin’s father fled to a nearby village – Darsilami because he heard of the news of the coming of the witch-hunters before they invaded Sintet. The father spent 4 months in Darsilami in Cassamance.
For her part, Nyima Jarju recalled that the witch-hunters found her at a naming ceremony where she was cooking. She said they pointed their mirrors at her and told her that she was sick.
“They asked me to go with them to Kanilai to be cured. I went into the house, locked the doors and windows. I was indoors,” she said.
When asked why she locked herself in the house, she said: “We have to run away because they were capturing people.”
She explained that the witch-hunters were dressed in red clothes and had mirrors that had cowries’ cells all over them.
She said she prepared lunch and took it for her father in-law who was hiding in Darsilami in Cassamance.
“Upon arrival, the old man cried. He was fearful of being killed when he returned to Sintet because he was their primary target,” she said.
Mr. Badjie, a policeman from the Kalagi Police Station went after his father in Darsilamin.
“The youths of the village took sticks, cutlasses and stones and wanted to beat the police. They wanted to burn the police vehicles they went with,” she said.
He said after the Police launched an unsuccessful operation in Darsilami, the police came to Sintet and began arresting elders of the community.
Madame Jarju said her father in-law returned to Sintet after four months, but he was living in fear.
“Every time he hears the sound of a vehicle, he would ask whether the witch-hunters are coming for me. He was living in fear,” she said.
She said Lamin was the one calming his father telling him nothing will happen to him.
Lamin said the incident brought shame on their family because people kept looking low on them.
He said his father underwent operation and died two years later.