Jo Ndow, daughter of the late Saul Ndow, has expressed frustration with a
letter from the Ministry of Justice that the government doesn’t have sufficient
evidence to prosecute the suspects in the death of her father.
“I don’t understand that because if there is no sufficient evidence, they need to investigate more but they are not investigating,” Ms Ndow said in an exclusive interview with this paper at the end of a three-day meeting of the association of victims of former President Yahya Jammeh with some international human rights bodies at Kairaba Beach Hotel last week.
Ms Ndow’s father, Saul, a businessman, together with Mahawa Cham, a former parliamentarian, were abducted in April 2013 in Senegal and were believed to have been murdered by the killing squad of the former president.
The duo were earlier on accused by Jammeh of trying to overthrow his government in March 2006 in an alleged coup attempt led by former military chief Col. Ndure Cham.
Given the apparent snail pace of the government’s investigation into alleged atrocities of Jammeh, Ndow’s family wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice requesting for investigation.
An excerpt of the reply from the ministry reads: “I therefore want to urge that while the security agencies are doing their best to insure diligent investigation of these crimes, you should come forward with any information or evidence at your disposal which may assist the investigations and prosecution of the culprits.”
Ms Ndow said: “My interpretation of that is we should investigate ourselves, gather more evidence and give it to them. How am I going to investigate to have more evidence; I am asking you to do that to get more evidence to put them in jail.”
Below is the edited excerpt of the interview with Nana Jo Ndow.
My name is Nana Jo Ndow, a daughter of the late Saul Ndow, a Gambian who was in exiled [in Senegal]. He left The Gambia because he was wanted, death or alive, by Yahya Jammeh [the former president of the country] for being very outspoken, for being idealist, for being basically a pain in his behind. He left because rumours was going around that he was involved in a failed coup to overthrow the government. He lost everything in The Gambia when he left, Jammeh bulldozed one of his houses, and the land was grabbed. Since then, my father could not see his sisters who are here; he used to see his brother who had travelled.
I didn’t realised how much it hurt my father not to be allowed back into his country; it was always in his mind, it was eating him alive but he was still very vocal although he was outside The Gambia. So in 2013, he went to Dakar and he met with Mahawa Cham, a former Member of Parliament, and later on they were abducted in Senegal.
We got to know this because I was trying to reach my father but I couldn’t reached him; I called my cousin who lives here at the time she tried him too but couldn’t reach him, everybody said they could not reach him. And somehow, you know Gambia is very small, we eventually got information that they had been abducted by Jammeh. Initially, when we head that, we thought it was the rebels in Casamance who were involved but more information came out that it was not the rebels; it was the forces working for Jammeh but not the rebels in Casamance. But still rumours kept circulating that they crossed over to Gambia, they were now in Gambia; they were in Mile 2 Prisons; they are here; they are there. This was torture for us. But as we are getting all these information, we thought it was rumours and we kept asking what is the basis for this. And then we went through various channels, the Senegalese government, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to ask for answers but we never got a response. Wherever we tried, we were faced with silence so we had to go through various different channels, people speaking behind closed doors but you know the problem with these people is that nothing is official, so you can’t fact check. But with the change of regime, within a month of Jammeh’s going, the news came out that Jammeh sent two men, Bubacarr Jarju and Suwanding Camara, who took them to Casamance. These two men were on the payroll of Jammeh; they used to be mercenaries.
Mahawa Cham was related to one of them [one of the guys who came for them in Senegal], so he trusted them. They took them to Casamance and handed them over to the jungulers, Captain Solo Bojang and others whose names I cannot remember right now but two of them are actually in Equatorial Guinea. So Sarjo Cham, Mahawa’s brother, did not give up in the search for his brother; he was investigating and got the two men who played a role in the killing of Saul and Mahawa arrested and their statements were taken at the police. In their statements, they said that they went into the bush in Casamance with Saul and Mahawa until they arrived in a part where they saw T-Shirts of Yahya Jammeh. The jungulers came out and asked them to introduce themselves and they told Bubacarr Jarju and Suwanding Camara to leave and they left; they did not know what happen to Saul and Mahawa after.
So now if you say, Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham, are brought in to overthrow the government and then they were with these two other men, then these two men were plot in this overthrow as well but they asked Bubacarr Jarju and Suwanding Camara to leave and that they only want to keep Saul Ndow and Mahawa Cham. This is common sense, we all know they were not going to let anyone go for free to go say what happened, especially it is a question of overthrowing the government; they were going to kill everyone of them. But for the fact that these two were able to live, for me, says it all; the fact that they came back alive shows that obviously they have something to do with this. So they were arrested [by the new government] but later released and Sarjo Cham was outraged, absolutely outraged and then they were arrested again and only kept for 72 hours and released.
We asked and asked and asked and the only answer we get was that there is not sufficient evidence. I don’t understand that because if there is no sufficient evidence, they need to investigate more but they are not investigating; they had not gone back to Sarjo Cham again, they had not even try to speak to us. We only got a letter from the Ministry of Justice and my interpretation of that we should investigate ourselves and have more evidence and give it to them; how am I going to have more evidence, I am asking you to do that to get more evidence to put them in jail, to tell us where their bodies are, their remains, we can’t bury them.
What do you thing from the three-day meeting would help the victims?
But you know, I don’t even want to call us victims, I want to call us militants, I want to call us activists, fighters because we are doing something about it. I think the fact that we all came together and had discussion for the past three days was very good because all the issues were very interesting. And I think it was also very fruitful for us as victims to know that it is not just you, or your parents, or just your family; we all in this together and together we are stronger. I know we all have expectations and I can’t speak for the others, but myself, I am very aware that this [the process of taking Jammeh to justice] is going to take a long time but I am so prepared. As a matter of fact, I want this to be done so well that I actually want it to take time so that we don’t jump the gun and have loopholes that would make it easy for him [Jammeh] to get out. I want it to be done so that when he goes away, and when his accomplices go away, it is for a very, very long time. As a matter of fact, I want them to spend the rest of their lives in jail so that they can reflect on everything that they had done and understand what it is like to take freedom from someone.
Impression about the government’s handling of the victims cases?
My problem with the government is the lack of communication; for me the starting point is communication and they are not communication whatsoever. When you chase after them, you get this planned response, I mean that response from the Ministry of Justice that said if you have more evidence, please come forward. It made me so angry because you feel let down. We talking about your citizens here, you serve them, they don’t serve you. But with this government, no communication, no update about our cases. Of course, I understand that the government is dealing with a lot of issues; it’s overstretched but our wounds need to be taken care of just by being open, by communicating directly to us. That is the first step. The second step will be to explain the challenges they [the government] are facing, explain to us – the victims – so that we understand why is it taking so long, what’s the next step, what are they trying to do. Because right now I feel those who are here for us, is us ourselves; we are one another’s support.
By the way, I just also want to put it out there that anybody who has information regarding my father, Saul Ndow, or Mahawa, or all the others, please just come forward. They can email us and be anonymous, but just give us some information so we that we can finally get answers because to me no answer is a form of torture, you blowing your mind thinking, you thinking constantly what really happened, why it happened. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org