By: Kebba AF Touray
Mustapha Ceesay, victim of former President Jammeh’s witches and wizard hunting exercise, last Saturday 11th March 2023, launched his book entitled: “The Duty to Disobey”.
The theme of the book “My Encounter with Former President Jammeh’s With Hunt Doctors, and features the ordeal that the author went through and his resistance to succumb to the illegal demands of ex-President Jammeh’s witch hunting team.
Reviewing the said book, Dr. Malanding Jaiteh said that the journey to authoring the book commenced many years ago, and that the impact of the book will remain in the country for millennia to come.
“After ten or fifteen years from now, some of us may not be here but we will still have somebody to tell the story of what happened. If we do not keep telling the story of what happened, we are not going to remember anything a generation from now,” he said. That it is on this basis that some of them encouraged the author to tell his story, and said it is important that every single story be heard and recorded for the future generations to knows.
“For those who have not yet read the book, know that this is one of the most important messages to because the rule of law is not on anybody’s side except those who are willing to hold it for everyone else,” he said.
Essa Bokar Sey of the OIC, dilated on the topic Security and Law Enforcement and the need for Reorientation. Mr. Sey expressed the need to commence from orientation before reorientation, saying there is a challenge on orientation.
“Re-orientation without proper orientation can be equated to destratification of challenging complexities and I think the matter is what we are faced with during transitions. Where security is to be put into its proper perspective, justice must remain the structure to hold it, because without justice, there is no security,” he said; That a society where there is no justice is one that no one would want to reside in.
“I rather live in a country that is government controlled and contained within justice, and journalism controlled contained within justice. Where injustice and justice are at locker heads, security remains a captive of desires, blinded interests and tragic of influence, and that is part of what affects us. Security must remain apolitical,” he said. Mr. Sey said great minds like Halifa Sallah, Sam Sarr, Sidia Jatta and BB Darboe, are locally and globally known and respected, but the difference is that while globally they are known to be respected and engaged, locally even though they are known and respected they are not engaged, and urged for this practice to cease.
Ms. Priscilla, one of the guests invited to the book launch, dilated on the topic ‘Human Rights of the Victims’, and said many people objected the demands of the ‘witch hunting’ team, and paid dire consequences as a result.
“The book contributes to the records of ‘Never Again’ so that people are informed in one way or the other. All of those victims who were subjected to the witch hunt campaign particularly the human right violations they were all subjected to, were all intentionally tortured emotionally, mentally and physiologically. All of these go against the core principles of what we have in the Gambia,” She said.
Bakary Bunja Darboe, another of the invited guests said one component of the witch hunting saga that he found fascinating, is the one regarding the personnel of the Gambia Police Force which he said, is a major institution in the country. Mr Darboe said how this important law enforcement institution was handled during that period, exposed the weaknesses in the practices of this important institution.
Foday Baldeh, publisher and editor of Fulladou Publishers, confirmed that the book is based on facts. He said the author worked with a competent team during the editing of the book, to take care of any possible errors, making the book outstanding.
Halifa Sallah, the chief guest of honor of the event, described the day as the beginning of a national conversation away from the normal political domain dealing with the citizenry as a people, and the type of society that Gambians want to live in. He said the actions of Mustapha are predicated on justice, truth and integrity. He said one thing the author mentioned in his book is ‘values’ and said this can be moral, human and religious values which makes the human being.
Halifa said when values prick the conscience of a person, he or she becomes a prisoner of conscience, and when he or she sees anything that goes against his or her conscience, the heart, mind and body will rebel no matter the consequence and cause. He said when society develops to its epitome, it is the duty of members of the security force and that is why they are a disciplinary force that is nurtured to overcome evil in our societies, with ways and means of controlling situations and saving lives and property.
According to Halifa, this is not an ordinary responsibility, but it also depends on the type of society that one has. He expressed his confidence that there are many Mustaphas in our security forces and given the right situation, such security officers will have those values where they will have love for country and people and will be ready to save country and people and if necessary, die for country and people.
“That is the type of security apparatus you need in a republic and that is the type of security apparatus that had been alienated by political hooligans who would want to use people for their own interest and if you refuse to be used, you perish,” he said.
Halifa explained that he narrated to the author that there was state backing for what was happening, and that journalists of Foroyaa went everywhere and wrote about the witch hunting campaign that the state at the time, did not object.
Halifa explained to the gathering that he got into the situation when a child reported to him that his mother was captured by the witch hunting team and said this was the right moment for him to nail the situation down.
“I called Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy and said somebody I know is under the custody of these people and I want you to find out where she is kept. The next day I called the Vice President Njie Saidy and she said, ‘I told you to call me the next day but I have seen it in Foroyaa and all the authorities have seen it on Foroyaa and I am sure the right authority will take action,” Sallah explained. He said he saw no action and decided to personally visit and talk to these people. He then went to Jamburr and Makumbaya where they had a big gathering of supporters of the ruling party with the picture of the former president in their houses. People went to such scenes because they thought their party was having ceremonies. Halifa explained that old men at the age 90 years were abducted by children within the security force, in broad daylight and nobody uttered a word.
“When a chicken or goat is about to be stolen and someone cries ‘thief!’, everybody comes out to catch the thief. But here was a human being who was being abducted from his family and you dare not say a word. Where was the sovereignty of the people? There was no republic or no due process anymore,” Halifa said. That this was the time he decided for the exercise to stop. He said the time he planned to return and collect more evidence the next day, the security forces came for him and took him to the Serrekunda Police station. Halifa said before he started his crusade against the witch hunting exercise, he informed all Bishops and Imams about heinous crime that was happening in the country.
Halifa concluded his speech by saying that conscience must dictate how people act at all times, and calls on everyone to nurture conscience in order to love truth and justice; that if “we do, we will be type of human beings who will protect truth and justice.”
For his part, the author Mustapha Ceesay, hailed all those who in one way or the other, assisted him on his journey to author the book and during his trying times when he was encountering the witch hunting team.