By Yankuba Jallow
Demba Touray, a member of the United Democratic Party (UDP) has given testimony before the TRRC about the 1996 Denton Bridge Incident involving UDP militants and members of the GNA.
Touray who was an ex-supporter of the AFPRC appeared on Tuesday the 23rd April 2019 before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
In his testimony, Touray said he was a supporter of the AFPRC when they initially took over the government because of the promises they made to the people. He added that the promise was that their government will bring about development that the country has been yearning for. He indicated that he used to attend some of their rallies until UDP emerged when he left the AFPRC, adding that Lawyer Ousainou Darboe brought cola nuts to him and introduced the party to him.
About the UDP problems with the AFPRC government, the witness said the government then used to decline to provide them security whenever they were embarking on campaigns or rallies. Instead of providing security, the witness said, the police used to target some of their members and arrest them.
He explained the Farafenni and other incidents wherein people pelted stones at the UDP entourages.
About the Denton Bridge Incident
The witness said some members of the UDP were tortured severely by members of the Gambia National Army (GNA) at the Denton Bridge. He explained that when their truck dubbed ‘Democracy Truck’ arrived at the Denton Bridge, they met soldiers at the Bridge who ordered them to park their vehicle. He said those in the truck were all men except one who was a lady. He told the Commission (TRRC) that the soldiers asked them to remove their shirts and those who had yellow UDP shirts were asked to throw them in a fire that was lit nearby.
“They beat us using branches of trees. I saw them (the soldiers) cutting branches of trees that they used to beat us whilst we were lying on the floor,” the witness stated adding that soldiers were walking on their backs to and fro.
He said a soldier used the butt of a gun and hit him on his left side which resulted in its temporal paralysis.
“Yankuba Touray, an ex-member of the government alighted and told the soldiers that they don’t know their job; that we should have been dead by then,” the witness in tears told the Commission.
He said Yankuba Touray thereafter stood at the Denton Bridge and ordered for the truck to drive into the sea so that they would all die at once. He narrated that some soldiers weren’t pleased with that order.
“When Yankuba Touray saw that one soldier was talking to our driver, he went into his car and left,” the witness said.
He said the soldiers took them to a camp near the State House where he managed to escape adding that the following morning Lawyer Darboe took them to a clinic where they received treatment.
He told the TRRC that the lady who was in the ‘Democracy Truck’ as a result of the maltreatment in the hands of the soldiers was tortured by the soldiers and her breasts were slashed by one of the soldiers with the use of a knife. He indicated that Kebuteh Janko also died not long after the Denton Bridge Incident.
“Seeing what happened to you, did your party take any further steps like taking the matter to court or any other steps?” Imam Ousainou Jallow, a Commissioner of the TRRC asked.
“No. We were taken to the clinic and when we returned to the residence of Ousainou Darboe they gave us some clothes and our names were taken down but I was never informed of any steps taken by our party (the UDP),” the witness answered.
The Testimony of Yahya Bojang
Yahya Bojang, a resident of Brikama Kabafita also appeared before the TRRC to give his ordeal about his encounter with the AFPRC and the APRC regime. He said he was born in Foni Kanfenda and he is a relative to ex-President Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh. He said he was a cleaner at a health post in Brikama for about 24 years before the AFPRC terminated his services in 1996.
He said this was as a result of his opposition to military rule in The Gambia. He stated he felt that the country was in the wrong hands and that a military government receives little or no external support.
He indicated that he is a strong member of the UDP since its inception to date, adding that his membership of the party has only brought him hardship with no ease. He said he has never supported the AFPRC and the APRC governments. He told the Commission that he was the Jola translator for the UDP.
“My membership at the UDP has always brought me hardship; no ease from one hardship to another,” he said adding that the hardship includes segregation from his community.
He told the Commission that he was arrested in the aftermath of the 1996 UDP rally in Brikama and was taken to the NIA where he was detained. He said one Abdoulie Kujabi the NIA Director then was the one who received him and handed him over to the men who tortured him. He said he was electrocuted on several occasions during his detention at the NIA. He stated that the torturers told him while torturing him that he would be killed because he hated the Chairman of the AFPRC and the head of the government as he then was. He said he spent a week at the ‘Bambadinga’, adding that his hands were put in a liquid and after that, his hands were wounded severely.
“My condition is still like that. I cannot do anything with my hands,” the witness said.
He said after his release, Ousainou Darboe took him to Dr. Ceesay’s clinic in Kololi where he was treated and he later financed his trip to Dakar where he acquired further medical treatment.
He said his arrest forced his children to opt out of school because he couldn’t pay for their school fees.
“Right now, any butut someone sees me having is given to me by someone. I don’t have anything and I cannot do anything for myself now,” the witness said.