By Nelson Manneh
Lamin Sillah, Warrant Officer Class 2 of the Gambia Armed Forces, on Monday 22nd March 2021, told the Truth, Reconciliation and reparations Commission (TRRC) that former president Yahya Jammeh ordered the killing of over 50 West African migrants.
Sillah, who reappeared before the TRRC in connection with the arrest of Landing Sanneh and the Killing of Almamo Manneh and West African migrants, said it would be a lie for the government of ex-president Jammeh to say that the migrants were killed by rogue elements.
Sillah admitted that about 50 of them were killed by members of the Gambia Armed Forces.
He said he was on duty in Kanilai on that day and Solo Bojang went to his house and told him to answer to Tumbul Tamba, which he did. He said Tumbul Tamba told him to dress up because they were going on patrol, adding Sanna Manjang, Solo Bojang, Malick Jatta alias Alfidai all entered his vehicle and they left Kanilai.
“Malick Jatta was armed with PGL weapon which contained the launcher and bullet mouth, while he and Solo Bojang had AK47. I was not briefed about the Operations. I was just told that it was a patrol and upon arrival at Bwiam, Solo Bojang received a phone call from Yahya Jammeh,” he said.
The witness said on his first day with the Junglers on Operations, he drove a Toyota double Cabin belonging to Tumbul Tamba. Upon arrival at Mandinaba, he asked Solo where they were going because the place was not part of their area of patrol because they should not go beyond Mandinaba. He said Abdoulie Jallow and Mam Biram Sam told them that junglers in Banjul should not go beyond Senegambia.
When they arrival at the airport junction, thereabout he said Solo Bojang was on phone with the late Daba Marena, former NIA director general. He said he later knew the place he was going with Solo Bojang and co belongs to the late Baba Jobe.
Sillah said when Solo alighted from the vehicle; he brought migrants out and tied them while Sanna Manjang and others guarded his vehicle. According to him, after they collected the migrants from Baba Jobe’s compound in their large numbers, they drove to Kanilai and took them behind the Kanilai Mini Stadium, deep in to the forest and executed them there.
Sillah said it was a lie when Malick Jatta said he saw Martin Kyere running, but felt sorry for him and did not kill him. He said he saw Mr Kyere going but he did not do anything, adding Solo Bojang was the one who ran after him and fired.
According to the witness, when one of the migrants was shot and the person fell into a well, Malick Jatta took a grenade and threw it inside the well and it exploded. He said Jatta did that because the guy was crying and shouting.
Explaining how eight other West African migrants that boarded his vehicle were killed, Sillah said they were shot one by one and thrown into the well. He said while these killings were happening, ‘Bukarabou’ (Jola drumming) music was ongoing at Yahya Jammeh’s residence in Kanilai and they could hear it in the forest.
“I did not shoot anybody,” he said.
Asked what happened to the other people that were in the other vehicle, Sillah said they were all killed and thrown into the well. He testified that after the operations, they all went back to Kanilai and Solo Bojang went to Yahya Jammeh to brief him. He added that the music in Kanilai continued in spite of the executions of 19 West African migrants.
The forest, according to him, was not far from Cassamance region of Senegal. He said Yahya Jammeh was in Kanilai and heard the gunshots.
“Yahya Jammeh was aware of the killings and he ordered for their killings,” he said.
Sillah said the migrants were tied like cattle and as a result of that, he had a misunderstanding with Solo Bojang, adding that they later took the second batch of victims to ‘Bunuborr’ Forest and when they got to the well, he said Sanna Manjang, Malick Jatta and Solo Bojang brought the migrants out, shot them and threw them into the well.
“This batch they were twenty and they were all executed making it a total of 39,” he said.
Sillah said he was just a mere driver and was not part of the killers and no bullet was fired from his gun.
“They put me in a problem and up to date am regretting it; because if they had told me they were going to kill the migrants, I would not have gone,” he said.
The witness said he can’t recognize the wells because it was the first time he went there.
Enlisted into the gendarmerie in 1991, Sillah, a trained jungler (a member of Jammeh’s hit-squad) said around 2002, he was trained together with other Junglers and was part of the Second Batch. His colleagues were Sambou Barrow, Buba Darboe, Major Dembo Jatta, Omar Jallow alias Oya.
Sillah said he was trained as a Jungler for 2 to 3 months and they were trained by one Fransico Casso, an Italian. He added that their batch was attached to the Bravo Company and they used to report to Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungu.
According to him, a team of junglers based in Banjul were answerable to Kawsu Camara alias Bombardeh. However when Bombardeh had a problem, the team was under General Saul Badjie. The Junglers in Kanilai were under Tumbul Tamba and when he died, Solo Bojang was in charge.
“Prior to this division, all the junglers were at State House and they were all answerable to Musa Jammeh alias Malia Mungu,” he said.
The witness neither Tumbul Tamba, nor Bombardeh was answerable to the State House Commanders. He added that he did not know to whom Malia Mungu was reporting at the time. He said Malia mungu was the ADC to Yahya Jammeh and it was at that time that he (Malia mungou) handed over everything to Bombardeh.
WO2 Sillah testified that he did not know where General Badjie was taking his orders from.
“Every Jungler knew that General Badjie was receiving orders from Yahya Jammeh?” Faal put it to him.
Meanwhile, the witness was alleged to have participated in two operations; the arrest of Landing Sanneh and the killing of Almamo Manneh.
Dwelling on these operations, he said while in Kanilai, Musa Jammeh told the men to fall in because Sanneh and Manneh were planning to overthrow Yahya Jammeh. He said there were two pickups from Kanilai with soldiers armed with AK47 led by Musa Jammeh while Ousman Sonko and team left State House and they all converged at Sting Corner.
Sillah said in those operations, Ousman Sonko, the head of the Operations, told them that Almamo Manneh and Landing Sanneh were planning a coup plot. He said at around midnight, they got to Landing’s residence. He said the entourage included himself, Ismaila Jammeh, Ousman Sonko, John Mendy alias Patrong, and Alagie Martin.
“Mr. Sonko negotiated with Landing Sanneh for so long, but Sanneh refused to open his door and all of a sudden there was a firing and Sonko fired,” he said.
The witness said they only knew that Landing’s family was in the house when they came out. But prior to that, he said, some of the soldiers hid behind a big tree.
“I did not fire and I returned my rifle the way I took it,” he said.
Sillah said they later went to Banjul for fueling and they were then ordered to go back to Kanilai.
“I did the junglers course but never participated in their problems except in this operation (Almamo Manneh and Co),” he said.