By Yankuba Jallow
An anonymous witness has on Monday, 28th October told the Truth Commission that former President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh attempted to have sexual intercourse with her.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is currently investigating past human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence that happened under the 22 – year rule of Yahya Jammeh.
The unidentified witness said Yahya Jammeh attempted to have sex with her, but when she refused to accept, Jammeh ended up expelling her from Kanilai.
“I used to see him as a father, a religious leader and a pan-African leader,” she said, adding that “I was disappointed.”
She said there was a day when the former President requested to see her.
“When I went to him, he asked me to undress and he will do spiritual bath on me to protect me,” she said, adding that the former President told her that he was working with a “Jinn.”
“I remembered telling him you are like my father and I agreed. I went with him to the bathroom and I remembered he (Jammeh) covered me and poured some water on me from my head to toe,” she said.
“For me, on the first day, everything was normal because he was trying to protect me,” she said.
“On that day, I felt special and I was happy. I felt good to be treated in that way by the President,” she said.
She told the Commission that on the 2nd day, the President sent for her and she went there.
“He asked me to undress and this time, this was something different. He (Jammeh) looked at me and told me that I look like a primary school student. He started to touch my breast and body. I remembered pushing back and I started to resist him. He was angry and he said ‘take her out of here,” she said.
She said on the following day, she was expelled from Kanilai and the scholarship that Jammeh promised her was terminated.
“He stopped offering me any kind of support. He stopped seeing me,” she said.
“He did not want to talk about the scholarship again. He did not want to see me again,” she said.
She said in one of the occasions, she said the current protocol officer to President Adama Barrow was sent to go and take a number of a girl.
“I remembered seeing the girl going to the President,” she said.
She said another Protocol Officer Jimbe Jammeh was also responsible for collecting numbers from girls. The witness said in one of the occasions, she was asked to take a number of a girl by her boss.
“The former President wanted to have sex with every woman and he was not protecting himself,” she said.
She adduced that the former President does not call people directly; instead he used to send people to call them.
She said the former President used to have sexual relation with two sisters who are related by blood.
She said one of her colleagues was expelled from the State House for simply refusing to have sex with the former President.
She said she recalled that Lamin Manga and Jimbe Jammeh were closed to Yahya Jammeh. She added that there were women who were coming to The Gambia through Lamin Manga.
“I was the one who accompanied Jimbe Jammeh in one of the occasions to pick one of them (foreign ladies) from the airport,” she said.
She said she was offered the role of Protocol Officer at the State House during her first meeting with Yahya Jammeh. She said after the meeting, the former head of state gave her D100,000 (one hundred thousand) to take home. She said she went through the interview process at the Personnel Management Office (PMO) and was appointed as Protocol Officer to the Office of the President, adding that she was paid D6,000 per month.
She said during her time at the State House, there were about 13 Protocol Officers. She said their responsibilities include scheduling meeting between the President and people.
“People will not give us work to do because they refer to us as the President’s girls. I see this to be as too idling,” she said.
She said they stayed there without working and people looked at them as girls who were brought their by the President. She said President Jammeh used to give them gifts such as laptops and money. She said some of the Protocol Officers used to live in the State House at Marina residence.
“I don’t know what was happening to everyone, but I know one of them who told me that he (Yahya Jammeh) was sexually abusing them,” she said.
She said the former President promised her scholarship and asked her to apply for any school of her choice and he will pay for it.
“For me, that was very important to me, but I applied and got a school, but it didn’t happen,” she said.
“He (Yahya Jammeh) failed that promise because he does nothing for free,” she said.
She said they used to go with Yahya Jammeh to Kanilai and they all used to stay in his residence. She said where they (the protocol officers) used to live was about 2 or 3 minutes’ walk from where Yahya Jammeh used to stay. She said the former President used to call whoever he wants to go with him inside his room and have sex with him.
“I have that experience and that was what the others who went through it told me,” she said.
“Most of us were protocol officers, but there were others who were not protocol officers,” she said.
She said she does not know anyone among them who was below 18.
She said former President Jammeh punched and forcefully had sex with one of the protocol officers.
“She was niece to the former President,” the anonymous witness said.
he said those who refused the former President sex, faced troubles but those who accepted his requests were treated specially and he used to do anything they requested from him.
“I remember one of them did not use protection and she became pregnant. She had to get rid of the pregnancy and she was sent out of the State House,” she said.
She told the Commission that she accompanied one of her colleagues to do an abortion after she became pregnant for the former President.
“Yahya Jammeh used to call some of them for massage. I was told by those who went there that it was for sex,” she said.
She said there was a day when she went to the Ministry of Justice on an errand and was locked in an office by an official who wanted to have sex with her. She adduced that the man unzipped his trouser and removed his manhood asking her to touch it. She said she refused and she left the office. She told the Commission that there are men who are entrusted to protect the vulnerable people particularly the women and children, but they violate their rights.
She said the protocol officers used to mingle with the Yahya Jammeh hit squad dubbed the “Junglers” not knowing that they were killers.
Sexual Violence with a religious leader
She said she is from a religious family and when she was 12, her father took her to a “Dara”. She alleged that her Koranic teacher (“Oustass”) attempted to rape her. She said her teacher one day asked her to massage him on his bed.
“When I entered the “Oustass” was lying down on his bed. The bed was surrounded by a mosquito net and when he I entered, he asked me to enter the mosquito net,” she adduced.
She said the Koranic teacher was living in an incomplete building.
“He had a knife beside his bed. He asked me to massage him and when I refused, he slapped me and I escaped but I had a wound on my back but I don’t know whether the wound was caused by the knife,” she said.
She said this was in the evening, adding that she escaped from him and she explained to her mother about what transpired between her and the“Oustass”. She said her parents confronted the Koranic teacher and she was removed from that “Dara”. She added that after taking her out of the “Dara” her father became her teacher. She said after the incident, she went to the hospital where she acquired treatment.
She alleged that during her days at the junior secondary school, a man from the Ministry of Justice asked her to go with him to the beach or a hotel with the promise that she will be made an ambassador. She told the Commission that this came about when she delivered a speech about children before her school assembly and this impressed the official from the Ministry of Justice. She added that they shared contacts and the man began sending her messages about love affairs.
“I got him to stop sending me messages when I decided to involve a man who was influential in the Government,” she said.
She told the Commission that poverty put women at high risk that people take advantage of their situation.
“Since that day, I became scared of men in position. There are still men who are looking for girls to take advantage of,” she said.
She said she undertook the responsibility of reporting any person in the society who took advantage of young girls. She added that she has reported several people to the police on the suspicion that they are trying to take advantage of young girls and children.