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Daughter of politician demands justice after 11 days in PIU detention

May 28, 2021, 12:20 PM | Article By: Sanna Camara

Kumba Sanyang (not her real name) was just 22 when she was picked up by PIU in May 2016. She spent 11 days in PIU detention while on trial. While in custody, her body suffered violations ranging from consistent buttocks slapping by men at the barracks to beatings with hosepipe, and making her clean the entire barracks, sweep the campus environment and wash their bowls every morning.

She was a teacher who just closed from school on May 9th of that year, hoping to meet her dad at the court hearings again. It’s been weeks since he got arrested and was being tried for participating in unlawful protests along with UDP top executive members. Police on guard at the courthouse would not let her access the vicinity. So she went home with her.

On their way, she left her at Westfield hoping to reconnect at the UDP leader’s house later. She never gets to see her mum either. Instead, she was picked up by PIU at the gate of the UDP leader and got detained.

Kumba’s dad was a political prisoner facing trial in Banjul. They were denied access to him while under detention. They were not allowed visits or phone calls with their dad while he was remanded. So, she and her mum went to the High Court to show support to her dad along with his peers.

On May 9th 2016, she noticed a high police presence in the court premises and around Banjul. It wasn’t usual, she told herself.

She left the premises as they were denied access to the court hearings. She told her mum they should go home because she was not feeling comfortable around the premises. That wouldn’t save her from what’s about to happen to them.

How she got arrested

Kumba was just two years into teaching and sometimes, she would take permission from school to go to court just to see her dad. They shared a special bond like most daughters who see their daddies as heroes. So seeing him in cuffs and chains breaks Kumba’s. She would keep crying at such a sight each time they went to the court.

By the second month, she was already getting used to it and her tears became less. She was getting strong and took faith in the fact that the fight for the country was a greater cause.

“One day, I believed it would end and we would all be free again. I would call his name even if we are not allowed to give him the usual hugs or hold his hands. I still go with my mum each day of the sittings just to see him,” she recounted.

On this day, she went to the party leader’s house at Pipeline to wait for her mum who she left around Westfield. She joined other supporters at the gate. They took comfort in the songs of solidarity they sang for their leaders, with hopes that tomorrow would be different. In that instant, they saw a guy running towards them with a blood stained T-shirt.

“When I was informed there was a clash between the PIU and the supporters, my thought was ‘what would happen to my mum’. I panicked and while making efforts to call her cellphone, a PIU vehicle stopped a few metres from us and started beating and arresting supporters around the premises,” she recalled.

Kumba got arrested and taken to PIU in Kanifing. In the heat of the confusion, she began crying, which was further amplified by further beatings administered on the youths in handcuffs, defenseless, on their way to the barracks. She wasn’t beaten but mostly threatened with batons and insults to “shut up or face the same!”

At the PIU

Kumba is a beautiful young woman. She’s the typical young lady with all good features of beauty. But she couldn’t stand the threats of rape and frequent buttocks beating meted on her as a way to subdue her under custody.

“They will be beating my buttocks each time I walk past them. It was so humiliating and demoralising. Men will threaten that they would come and rape me if I did not comply with their instructions. First few days and nights, it was just threats of ‘killing us in the morning’. I would just cry,” she recalled.

When they appeared in court, they were not given a chance to talk about what was happening to them in PIU custody. But even with that opportunity, Kumba said she would be afraid to speak about it because of fear that she would be punished when they return them to detention.

“We were separated from the boys. Only two of us young women stayed at the barracks with some old women they could not beat or maltreat like they did to us. Those were old enough to be their mums. The beatings were routine and when I cried out of pain and roll-over due to pain, they would ask me to bring Ousianou Darboe to help me,” she said.

On the 11th day of the trial, the court discharged them from detention and she was joyous to go home and sleep on her bed for the first time in almost two weeks. She could sleep and snore without fear of a bucket-full of water soaking her wet on the thin, worn out mattress on the floor in the morning. Or, someone sitting on her buttocks while they administer hosepipe beatings on her back.

Despite her release by the Kanifing Magistrates’ court on her 11th day of detention, she cannot still put the incident behind her. During her detention, she was not raped as others. But she still remembers the beatings received many mornings.

“The worst memory is what they do to my body... One of them would sit on my buttocks, while administering hose pipe beatings on my back,” she recalled.

She didn’t ask for much from TRRC hearings. Just a simple demand for justice: for herself, her dad and all the others who were unfairly treated through detentions, torture, rapes or false Imprisonment.

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