S.M. Jammeh, The Gambia’s ambassador to the Republic of Turkey yesterday
testified through video conferencing before the Truth, Reconciliation and
Reparations Commission (TRRC) chaired by Dr. Lamin Sise.
He gave guidance and suggested that the nomenclature of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission should be changed to Truth, Reparations and Reconciliation Commission, adding that the Reparations should come before the Reconciliation.
Kemesseng Jammeh who was born in 1943 in Jarra Sikunda in the Lower River Region disclosed that he became the executive officer at the Mansakonko Area Council in 1971 where he served for three years and was later moved to Kuntaur Area Council and finally to Kanifing Urban Council where he was dismissed in May 1975.
He stated that whilst he was serving as executive officer in these councils, he was not aligned to any political party.
He further stated that he petitioned President D.K. Jawara but he never got any response and he felt he was not treated fairly and he joined the National Convention Party (NCP) led by Sheriff Mustapha Dibba.
The witness said he contested under the NCP ticket in Jarra West Constituency which he won.
The witness further said that following the aborted 1981 coup, he was arrested together with Sheriff Mustapha Dibba, NCP leader in August 1981 and detained for about 10 months.
He noted that Kukoi Samba Sanyang was a member of the NCP who contested in the Foni region and as a result most of the detainees were from the NCP.
He further noted that more than 2000 people were arrested and detained during that period and a review tribunal was set up to review the detainee cases.
Ambassador Jammeh stated that following the 1994 coup-d’-etat, there was a ban on political activities throughout the country until 1996 when the ban was lifted.
He said he remained in NCP and during the transition, there was the July 22nd Movement which he considered at the time to be a party in the making.
He further said PPP, NCP and the GPP were banned and after the ban on political activities was lifted, the United Democratic Party was born.
He explained that people in the like of Kebba Jammeh, the late Seyfo of Badibu, late Sainey Darboe at the Ministry of Agriculture, himself and few others formed UDP and Barrister Ousainou A.N.M. Darboe (the current Vice-President) who was in the United States of America at the time was chosen to lead the UDP.
He further explained that the prime motive of choosing Darboe was because of his legal background and his demonstration of leadership qualities.
Ambassador Jammeh averred that he was responsible for mobilizing people in the Jarra West and Central constituencies.
He further averred that whilst he was busy preparing for the campaign in the region, he was approached by two police officers who informed him that he was wanted at Soma Police Station by the Officer Commanding (OC).
He revealed that upon arrival at Soma Police Station, he was detained and later taken to Janjanbureh Prison.
“I didn’t meet the OC, the police asked me to wait even when I asked why I was arrested,” he said.
The witness asserted that at Janjanbureh Prison, he was kept in a very small cell where he met Lamin Waa Juwara, and at the time, people didn’t know where Lamin Waa Juwara was detained.
He pointed out that it was because of his detention that people knew Lamin Waa Juwara was detained at Janjanbureh Prison.
He described the condition of the cell as very horrible and terribly bad, whilst the food was below standard.
He said after the Farafenni attack in December 1996, they were kept incommunicado for some time until January 1997 when he was taken to Farafenni Police Station along with one Sainey Sabally, the UDP coordinator for the North Bank Region and Siaka Sonko.
He revealed that three of them were kept in a cell until the next day when they were arraigned before the Magistrates’ Court presided over by Borry Touray and charged with the offence of causing damage to vehicle and compound fences.
He explained that his detention coincided with the period of party nomination for the National Assembly elections.
Ambassador Jammeh disclosed that they were granted bail and released on bail but shortly after arrival at Sikunda, police officers came to him, saying they had an instruction that they should be taken to Janjanbureh Prison.
He further disclosed that he was nominated to stand for the election whilst in detention and that the argument of the prosecution was that he was detained on the basis of decree.
The witness stated that he was released shortly after the nomination exercise in 1997 and after contesting the election he won and he was the minority leader at the National Assembly and a member of ECOWAS Parliament.
Ambassador Jammeh told the Commission about the imposition of an Alkalo by the APRC government on Sikunda community after the community chose one Alhagie Saro Jammeh, a 75-year-old as their Alkalo.
He said Saro Jammeh was arrested and taken to Farafenni Police Station and detained for 3 days for allegedly receiving rates from yard owners in Sikunda.
He told the Commission that 11 yard owners were arrested and detained after the wife of the then Chief, Yaya Jarjussey reported to Yahya Jammeh during his meet the people’s tour that these 11 people were not paying their rates.
He revealed that the 11 yard owners were arraigned before the district tribunal and were sentenced to serve six months imprisonment.
The witness further revealed that their conviction and sentence was challenged at the High Court before Justice Wallace Grant who ordered for their release but noted that they were, however, released after they had spent over 40 days in detention.
The witness told the Commission that the arrest of Sikunda 11 yard owners had tremendous impact on the community as they were arrested and detained during the raining season.
Ambassador Kemesseng Jammeh disclosed that the opposition parties most particularly the United Democratic Party boycotted the 2011 parliamentary election and shortly after the opposition parties wrote to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), under the leadership of Mustapha Carayol to chart a way forward for the participation of opposition parties in future elections.
He pointed out that 17 conditions were outlined and the IEC was asked to summon a meeting that would involve all political parties including the APRC.
He revealed that military personnel were seen wearing APRC T-shirts and civil servants were seen publicly involving in APRC political meetings.
Ambassador Jammeh stated that after IEC responded, UDP youths group lead by the late Solo Sandeng staged a peaceful protest on the 14th of April, 2016.
He further stated that they were arrested and trampled upon by personnel of the PIU and taken to the NIA where they were tortured and later taken to Mile 2 Prisons.
The witness said he received a call from Ousainou Darboe that Solo Sandeng had died in custody and was secretly buried in Tanji and other detainees were seriously tortured.
He said the UDP leadership called a press conference after receiving the information with shock, dismay and disappointment and the news that Solo Sandeng was killed and spreads across the country.
He told the Commission that on the 16th of April 2016, they engaged in a peaceful protest where they carried banners saying ‘Release Solo Sandeng dead or alive,’
“We were marching towards Westfield and when we got the Comium office on Kairaba Avenue, the PIU descended on us and arrested us,” he remarked.
“There was so much commotion, Ousainou Darboe was seriously injured on his head and was stitched, Momodou Lamin Dibba almost lost his eyes, Lamin Jatta was seriously injured,” he added.
Ambassador Jammeh asserted that whilst they were detained at the PIU Headquarters in Kanifing, then the Interior minister and then Inspector General of Police; Ousman Sonko and Yankuba Sonko came to see them.
He said there were about 30 detainees at the PIU Headquarters and after spending the night there, they were taken to Mile 2 Prisons.
At Mile 2 Prisons, the witness revealed that they were received by the Director General David Colley who took them to the overcrowded cells at the remand wing.
He stated that their arrest and detention coincided with the Ramandan period, adding that on the 20th day of the Ramadan they were not allowed to receive food from their families as a result of a problem at the main yard which reverberated and spread to the remand wing.
Ambassador Jammeh further stated that they were arraigned before the court and wrongly charged and convicted and sentenced to serve three years imprisonment.
He said having being convicted and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment, a notice of appeal was filed against the court’s decision.
At this juncture, Ambassador Kemesseng Jammeh expressed gratitude to Barrister Antouman A.A.B. Gaye, Amie Bensouda, Awa Sise Sabally, Sheriff Marie Tambadou, Rachel Y.Mendy and host of other legal practitioners who represented them during their trial.
He asserted that with the intervention of the Almighty GOD (Allah), with The Gambia people who have decided, the coalition won the December 1st 2016 presidential election and there was need for them to be released as their release would make impact on the new government.
He revealed that they were released on the 5th of December, 2016 after they were incarcerated on the 16th of April, 2016.
Ambassador Kemesseng Jammeh in his message to the nation indicated that the present Gambian Constitution has been seriously tempered with by Yahya Jammeh to perpetuate himself in power.
He therefore suggested that there should be two term limit for president, he called for interparty dialogue among the political parties and also stressed the need for political parties consultation with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).