By Yankuba Jallow
Warrant Officer Class one Lamin Camara has accepted responsibility for the killing of two students in Brikamaba during the April 2000 mass students’ demonstration.
During the students’ demonstration in Brikamaba, it was reported Sainey Nyabally and Ousman Sabally were shot by men in uniform. For Camara, he said he would accept responsibility because his men were the only soldiers present there and he was their leader.
Appearing before the TRRC on Wednesday, 25th September 2019, Camara said at the time of the incident, he was a Corporal and he was dispatched in Brikamaba together with 4 other soldiers when they got information that the students were planning to stage a demonstration. He said during this time, he was under the Quick Resistance Force (QRF) of the Farafenni barracks and he was part of those who were handpicked by Captain Baboucar Keita to go to quell the students’ demonstration in Brikamaba.
“We were having live rounds in our possession. Each of us was having four magazines and each of the magazines has 30 live rounds in addition to 16 blank bullets that our commander, Captain Keita gave us,” the witness said.
He told the Commission that the captain told them categorically not to use live rounds on the students.
“He (Captain Keita) did not take the live rounds that we were having from us,” he said.
He said from Farafenni, they went to Brikamaba and arrived there at around 8 to 9 O’clock at night. He said when they arrived in Brikamaba, their commander (Keita) asked five of them to stay back. He said he was with Lance Corporal Giri Njie, Private Alieu Kambi, Private Lamin Camara and one Private P.J. Mendy. He said he was a Corporal at the time. He said it was only five of them who left Brikamaba while the others continued with Captain Keita.
“I was the most senior among the five,” he said.
“When you arrived at Brikamaba, did you notice any destructions?” asked the deputy Lead Counsel, Horojah Bala Gaye.
“No, we did not see any destruction,” he said.
He said they alighted at the police station and the station officer informed them that the students were planning to stage a demonstration and they wanted to kill their principal. He said from the police station, he proceeded with his four men to the alkali of the village and asked him to talk to the school children not to stage the planned demonstration. He said they proceeded to the community’s youth leader’s home and told him to talk to the youths not to carry on with their planned demonstration.
He said nothing happened at Brikamaba on the night of 10th April 2000. He added that in the morning, they were informed by a police criminal investigative officer to go and bring the principle of the school because the students wanted to kill him. He said he and his four other colleagues each had AK 47 at the time they went to collect the principal.
“At that juncture, when we wanted to take out the principal, the students refused and they asked us why we were taking their principal,” he said.
He told the Commission that he hid the case of his gun while his men were having theirs on their neck.
“I made a mistake because I did not tell them to remove theirs. I remove this because I was expecting that anything could happen and it will serve as a hindrance when we are running,” he said.
He said CID officer Fakebba Ceesay came out and told him the Principal said he wouldn’t go with them. He said Ceesay further told them to run to the police station because the students were rushing to burn it.
“We all came running to the station,” he said.
He said the police were inside the station, but could not do anything about the situation.
“The students were stoning us and two of my men were injured,” he said.
He said he and his men ensured that the station was not burnt by the students. He said there was reinforcement from Major Wassa Camara from Kudang camp and Lieutenant Baldeh from Basse barracks, adding they were shooting people. He said Lt. Baldeh’s team was the first team to arrive at the scene.
“As they were coming into Brikamaba, they began shooting and the people dispersed,” the witness adduced.
He said he left the police station and went to GAMTEL with one of his colleagues Kambi. He said he noticed that the GAMTEL booth was brought down and the glasses of the vehicle were broken.
“I was called by our Captain and he asked me what happened. I told him we are tired because these people are more than us. The Captain told me that two people have died and I told him that I am not aware of any killings. I told the Captain our mission has failed because we were not supposed to kill any person,” he said.
The witness said he went to his men to check whether they were responsible for the killing of the two people. He said when he checked, he found out that some of them had exhausted all their blank bullets. He said Giri Njie and Kambi were the two among his men who had exhausted their blank rounds.
“I did not check their life rounds at that point,” he said, adding that he informed his commander about his findings.
He said when they went back to Farafenni, the weapons were checked and it was discovered that some live rounds were missing. He said they spent two weeks in Brikamaba before going back to Farafenni.
When we returned the weapons to the armoury, it was discovered that one of Giri Njie’s (also known as Abdou Njie) magazines was missing and also a bullet was missing from another magazine.
“He lost 31 bullets in total,” he said, adding that Njie was asked to pay for the lost bullets.
He accepted responsibility as indicated in the April 2000 Commission of Inquiry recommendation for the death of Sainey Nyabally and Ousman Sabally.
“I know I did not fire but as far as I was there with my men (and their senior), I will accept responsibility of their deaths,” he said.
About the witness
He said he was born in Badibu Suwareh Kunda in the North Bank Region. He said he did not go to school, but joined the army because the army was in need of skilled men to join them. He added that he joined the military because of his skills as an electrician which he acquired from his two years services at the GUC (now NAWEC). He said he was enlisted in the Gambia National Army in 1982 and he has done basic weapon training.
“I was under the engineering section of the army,” he said.
He said he was deployed at the Yundum Barracks.