By Yankuba Jallow
Musa Kanaji, a victim of April 2000 countrywide students’ demonstration on Thursday told TRRC they need urgent medical attention.
Kanaji said he was attending Brikamaba Junior Secondary School in year 2000.
“The victims have endured pain for 19 years and we have been crying for justice. We want justice to be served. Let the government make provision for treatment for the victims of the mass students’ demonstration the soonest. Most of the victims come from poor families, making it impossible for them to feed themselves and their families more so to pay for their treatments,” he said.
He called on the government to provide training for security forces so that they will have the requisite knowledge of how to deal with unarmed civilians during demonstrations.
Kanaji explained the ordeal he underwent as a result of a gunshot he received from soldiers in Brikamaba during April 2000 students’ demonstration. He added he was sixteen.
He said he came to know about the students’ demonstration on the 10th April 2000. He said he was informed that the reason for the demonstration stemmed from what happened to Ebrima Barry of Fosters’ Junior Secondary and Binta Manneh of Brikamaba Junior Secondary School. He told the Commission that after he received the news of what happened to students’ who held the demonstration on the 10th April, the students in the provinces also held theirs the following day.
The witness said he was informed on the evening of 10th April by his friend (Musa Camara) that some soldiers from Kudang military camp were going round town arresting students.
“I was told by my friend that a curfew was imposed in Brikamaba and I went home,” the witness said.
He said in the night, the soldiers arrested four students and handed them over to Brikamaba Police Station.
He said he set out for school on 11th April, but he saw a group of about 20 students standing outside the school campus. He said the students were coming from different places to go to school.
“I saw three soldiers standing at the school gate and all of them were armed with AK47,” the witness said, adding that the soldiers covered their heads with green helmets.
“The students came with their bags containing books and their pens only,” the witness said.
He said when the students gathered; they all proceeded to go to the school for lessons but were stopped by the soldiers. He said at the time of the incident, the grade 9 students’ examination was due and they were on revision in preparation for the exams.
“The intention of the students was to get to the school, but the soldiers wouldn’t allow them to come close to the school gate,” the witness said.
Kanaji said the soldiers fired at the students and they all dispersed from where they were standing at that moment. The soldiers continued to pursue them, he added. He added that the students picked stones and pelted at the soldiers.
“The students were angry and were stoning the soldiers. The soldiers followed them trying to disperse them,” the witness said.
He told the Commission that he was among those stoning at the soldiers.
“The soldiers were still chasing the students. They were firing,” the witness said.
He said he heard that a grade 9 student (Ousman Sabally) was shot dead by the soldiers. He said he was told that another student who died was Sainey Nyabally, a teenager who was shot by the soldiers.
“When we heard about the death of our colleague, we knew that the soldiers were firing life rounds,” the witness said.
He said the death of Ousman Sabally intensified the anger of the students and they went in different directions attacking them from different positions.
“The crowd was increasing and people were throwing stones to the soldiers,” the witness said, adding that “when the stoning is (much) on them (the soldiers), they will open fire and we will disperse.”
He said while standing on the highway with his student colleagues, they saw three soldiers who were retreating towards the Brikamaba Police Station and one of them stayed back and he was on the verge of firing at them.
“In a short time, I realized that I was lying on the ground. One of the students told me that ‘boy you have been shot’ and when I put my hand behind my back, I touch my blood,” he said.
He indicated that he was shot between his two rids and as a result he went home. He said he met his elder brothers and his French teacher, one Mr. Mbye who assisted him to reduce the blood oozing from his body, adding that his brother Ansumana Kanaji carried him to the Brikamaba Health Center.
“I met Ousman Sabally lying and blood was coming from his heart (chest). The blood was coming forcefully from Ousman and the doctor tried to stop it, but the blood will ‘push out’ anything ‘placed’ to cover the wound,” the witness said.
He said his bed was beside Ousman’s and he saw him at the time he was dying. He said his wound was bandaged at the health centre, but it could not stop the blood from oozing. He added he was transferred to Bansang Hospital together with Ousman Sabally and two others where they were admitted.
He said at the Bansang Hospital, a minor operation was performed on him, but that did not stop the blood oozing from his body. He added he used to release blood through his urine. He said he spent three days at the Bansang Hospital. He said his brother Ansumana Kanaji, who was beaten by the soldiers, was also admitted at the Bansang Hospital.
“There was reinforcement from the Basse military barracks and they were doing the beatings and the torturing,” the witness said.
He said he was referred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Banjul for a major operation to be conducted on him because the minor operation was not successful. He said he arrived in Banjul on the 13th April around 8 pm and on the 22nd April, he was given a document to sign consenting to an operation to be done on him. He said he was taken to the theatre where x-ray and operation were conducted on his body.
“The bullet damaged my left kidney completely,” he said.
He said since then, he has been attempting to get his medical paper from the Royal Victoria Hospital, but the authorities there would always tell him that the document ‘is nowhere to be seen.’
He said he was discharged on the 7th June 2000.
He said although he has completed his schooling, he couldn’t further his education owing to financial constraints. He challenged the government to urgently provide victims with treatment.