O.J. narrates ordeal & how he turns down Jammeh’s offer

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Omar Amadou Jallow popularly known as O.J. yesterday appeared before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission chaired by Lamin Sise to explain the bitter experience he had during Yahya Jammeh government.

The witness told the Commission that he was arrested more than 22 times during Yahya Jammeh’s regime which started immediately after the 22nd July, 1994 coup-d’état.

He told the Commission how Yahya Jammeh sent him money to lure him to joining him but he refused and mentioned his ordeal with his elder brother Cherno Jallow.

The witness disclosed that in 1994, he was the minister of Agriculture until the democratically elected government of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was toppled by the juntas.

He told the Commission that he was shock and surprised that the military would overthrow democratically elected government recognised by Africa and the world in general that has respect for the rule of law, respect for human rights amongst others.

He said three days after the juntas took over the reign of powers, they made announcement requesting that all former ministers in the Jawara government report to the nearest police stations.

The witness told the Commission that  he reported at the then NSS, and then after three days of their detention at the NSS, Yahya Jammeh came, informed and accused them of corruption in which he responded to Yahya Jammeh.

At this juncture, Omar Jallow mentioned an instance where he gave Yahya Jammeh favour, citing how he involved the late Shyngle Nyassi in the burial of Yahya Jammeh’s father.

Omar Jallow told the Commission that they were released after some time but were placed under house arrest.

Omar Jallow stated that his real trouble started with the junta after reading in the newspapers that the juntas were going to stay for about 2 years when he called a press conference condemning their decision to stay in power.

He told the Commission that on the evening of that day precisely on the 6th October, 1994, Sana Sabally arrived in his residence with truck load of soldiers and was beaten.

He said one Batch Samba Jallow led a 20 man contingent to beat him up and at this juncture he clarified that the Batch Samba Jallow he was referring to was not the witness who had testified before the Commission.

O.J. told the Commission that four council members; Sana Sabally, Edward Sighateh, Sadibou Hydara and Yankuba Touray were present whilst their men were beating and kicking him, adding that they claimed he challenged them.

The witness informed the Commission that whilst they were beating him, one Justice Fofana, the Daily Observer reporter came to the scene and they extended the beating to him.

The witness told the Commission that he sustained injuries in his back, legs and body, later taken to the security wing at the Mile 2 Prisons and locked in a cell.

He described the condition of the cell as very deplorable.

The witness told the Commission his arrival at the then NSS office and his encounter with Sana Sabally and the then Attorney General and Minister of Justice Fafa Mbai and the threats issued by Sana Sabally as to how they are going to set an example by executing them in a firing squad.

The witness revealed that he was arrested and taking to Fajara Barracks where he was detained in dilapidated hall, adding that Almamo Manneh, Buba Bah and Musa Jammeh were among the soldiers who deliberately beat him.

He pointed out that they stripped him naked, together with Ousainou Njai and M.C. Cham.

He noted that Buba Bah, now Lt. Col. in The Gambia Army broke his eyes and participated in torturing him.

O.J. said for 13 months he was detained and the juntas never allowed the 46 detainees access to visit, citing that food was served in groups, no showers and no medical attention.

He also said one Lamin Sanneh was dismissed from the army when the juntas learnt that he was assisting him to get food from his wife.

He told the Commission that he saw some elderly people defecate on themselves.

He maintained that three ladies who were among the detainees were also badly tortured, but none of the members of his group were charged or taken to court.

The witness told the Commission that he was arrested several times where he was detained along with Hamat Bah and again Halifa Sallah.

He mentioned his arrest and how trumped charges were preferred against him with the then minister of Justice as an accomplice.

When asked by Lead Counsel Essa M. Faal why he didn’t take legal action against the government at the time, he replied that he lacked confident in the justice system at the time and could not take action.

The witness told the Commission how Sana Sabally came to his house with Batch Samba Jallow, pointed AK 47 at him, asked him to get up. He said that they beat and tortured him in the presence of his children.

He also told the Commission that his wife was arrested twice by the Juntas, the pain inflicted on one Omar Jatta who is still limping. He added that pain and torture was inflicted on one Bate Manneh, Jabe Ceesay and Wuyeh, adding that one Modou Jallow was tortured but died a week later.

Omar Jallow told the Commission that despite of all the arrest and detention, he continue to defile Yahya Jammeh because he believes in justice and he would always stand up for people who looked up to him for leadership.

O.J. advocated strong support for the TRRC, adding that he was happy for establishing the TRRC.

He told the Commission that he has forgiven all those who wronged him, citing the prosecution of Prophet Essa, Ibrahim and others and yet they still forgive their enemies.

He stated that Gambia is one tribe, one people, one religion, this he claimed was the principles promoted by Jawara regime.

He advised all and sundry to forgive and stop living in the past and should never allow what happened in the 22 years of Yahya Jammeh to happen again.

O.J. suggested ways to make institutional reforms a reality so as to prevent recurrence of what happened in the Jammeh government.

He pointed out that people should stop personalisation and glorification of our leaders, stop political interference in the institutions and making institutions independent.

Author: Bruce Asemota