By Momodou Jarju
Lance Corporal Babou Janha has implicated Alagie Martin, a General in the Gambia Armed Forces (GAF) and several others for torturing him for 4 hours, while testifying before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commissions (TRRC) yesterday.
Janha, a native of Sunchu Alagie, said he was arrested on April 3, 2006 at GAF’s headquarters in Banjul in connection with the alleged foiled coup of former Colonel Ndure Cham. He was a former driver of the ex-colonel then.
He said Alagie Martins with a team from the State Guard Battalion, about 12 of them and fully armed, arrested him. He said Alagie Martin was State Guard personnel then and currently a General in GAF.
“When they came they asked for me. I came out and they told me I’m needed at the NIA. So I joined them in their vehicle to the NIA,” he said. This was at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
At the NIA, he met with a panel of interrogators (more than 20) plus the team that arrested him, who asked him several questions about the alleged coup of Ndure Cham. He said the panel constitutes officials from the NIA and the State Guard Battalion.
He cited Baba Saho, Foday Barry NIA official, Warrant Officer Bojang from the army, late Musa Jammeh, and Alagie Martin as among the panelists.
He said they wanted to use him as a state witness because he worked with Ndure Cham but he responded in the negative. The deputy director at the NIA, Momodou Lamin Hydara appeared to lead the interrogation according to Janha. “They are forcing me to say something which I don’t know,” he said.
He said they accused him of supporting Colonel Cham when he refused to adhere to their forced confession. Eventually, he said Musa Jammeh got up and was pacing around with a Piccadilly cigarette and kola nut.
“He (Musa Jammeh) spilt the kola nut and throw it into his mouth trying to pass behind me, after lighting his cigarette that’s the time I heard a very heavy slap on my cheek,” he explained. He said he fell and rolled under the table, then, he was pulled out and beaten.
“They started beating me, kicking me with their combats, hitting me with their rifle butts, stamping me. I was beaten mercilessly,” he explained.
“Later I was charged after two weeks of my arrest. I was charged with three counts that is concealment of treason, concealment of conspiracy, the other count I forgot it,” he said.
He said Musa Jammeh even threatened that if he doesn’t comply, they would kill him and nothing would come out from it. The beating lasted for four hours, from 3pm to 7pm, he said, adding that Alagie Martin and Musa Jammeh led the beating where he sustained injuries and he had never received medical attention.
Thereafter, he said deputy director Hydara ordered his transportation to Mile II Central Prison and threatened to visit him if he failed to comply with them.
“I was escorted with the State Guard personnel in a vehicle to Mile II,” he said.
Janha said there he was taken to the director of the prisons, David Colley’s office where he was stripped naked, recorded his arrival and then taken to the Maximum Security Wing, block 5 barefooted. He was locked up alone.
He added that the condition of the cell was bad and small; giving the length as roughly 2 metres and the width as 1.5 metres. He also said the food was bad a mayonnaise container served as a chamber pot for toilet use.
“That’s the cell I stayed in for 9 years, 4 months and some days,” he said.
Following this, Janha said, he was taken to the NIA again by the same State Guard personnel and given a written statement he did not write to sign or he would be killed at night, thus he signed the document forcefully. He was later returned to Mile II. He said he was mentally tortured.
Janha said several others were implicated in the alleged foiled coup namely, Colonel Bunja Darboe, Colonel Pierre Mendy, Corporal Samba Bah, Colonel Yahya Darboe, Captain Wassa Camara, Captain Farling Sanyang and Alieu Jobe, former Accountant General.
Fast forwarded, Janha said he was taken to a civil court and later to court martial where he was sentenced for 10 years in prison but he served 9 years, 4 months and some days.
He said he sold his compound to hire a lawyer called Neneh Cham but he lost the case which affected him psychologically. Before his arrest, he said he had three children but after six months in prison, his wife delivered a baby boy who would later visit him when he was old enough.
According to him, he was released in 2015 by a presidential pardon with conditions that they should stay away from politics, they should not join political gatherings, and anybody who reports his or her case to the police would jailed for 10 years.
He was recalled into the army by the current regime of President Adama Barrow. Quizzed whether he was compensated upon his recall, Janha said he was reinstated and his unpaid salaries while under unlawful imprisonment was returned to him but not compensated.
About Babou Janha
Born in 1976, Janha joined the GAf on May 12 1996 and finished training on August 31 and then posted at Yundum Barracks under Supply and Transport. He was a private soldier then. In 1997 he was posted to the Gambia Navy and returned to Yundum Barracks in 1998 under Supply and Transport again and became a driver to Ndure Cham. 2001 to 2004 he was deployed to Darfur on a peacekeeping mission.