By Yankuba Jallow
Captain Baboucar Bah of the Gambia Armed Forces testifying before the TRRC admitted torturing Omar A. Jallow, an ex-minister in the PPP government in October 1994.
Bah is the second witness in the second session of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Bah told the Commission that he was a specialist in ammunition, mines and explosives.
Captain Bah, said he was born around the year 1972 in Galoya Village in the North Bank Region and migrated to Buniadu Village where he grew up.
After completing his primary and high school education in Berending Village, he proceeded to the Nusrat Senior School where he obtained his O Level Certificate in 1991. He said he joined The Gambia Gendarmerie in the same year. He stated that their batch was trained by the Turkish Training Team and went for overseas training in early 1992 in Turkey. He said before his return from his overseas training in October 1993, the Gendarmerie was amalgamated into the police and army.
He averred that when he assumed duties, he was attached at the Turkish Training Team as their logistics and liaison officer. He said upon his return, he was promoted to a Corporal rank and subsequently promoted to the rank of an acting Sergeant in early 1994. He said two years later, he was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant and transferred to the Gambia National Army Training School as an instructor.
He said in the year 2006, he was promoted to the rank of Warrant Officer class 2 and in the year 2007 or 2008, he was promoted to the rank of a Lieutenant until, in the year 2012, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. He said from the year 2015 to 2017, he was the deputy commander of the Fajara Barracks.
He confessed that he had mercilessly tortured OJ thrice when he was brought to the Fajara Barracks during the days of the junta. In explaining about the torture, he said one Almamo Manneh who was his senior and adviser in the army told him bad things about OJ. He said Manneh told him that OJ is a wicked man because he was an enemy to the revolution; that he was in close contact with the west to disrupt the peace of the country.
Bah explained that with those remarks, he was disappointed because whilst he was going to school, he took OJ to be a good and responsible citizen. He said during this time, he was in his 20’s and he was a bit immature in the way he does his actions.
“As I came close to him, I punched him (OJ) on his stomach and he bent down. I started beating him mercilessly but I was not satisfied using my hands to beat so I used the Gendarmerie stick to continue beating him severely. This is listed for a while,” he said.
He said he participated in the torture of OJ twice or thrice. He said all the tortures lasted for a while.
“I was very naive at that time. I accept guilt and all he told the Commission is the truth,” he confessed.
He sought forgiveness from OJ, his family and Gambians at large because he owes allegiance to the State and should have protected them at that time. He stressed that since then, he has never been involved in similar activities of torture because the torture of OJ remains a scar in him.
He said he was also a victim of the 22 years Jammeh rule. He said he was arrested in the year 2012 in connection to a dead ram that was buried at the Fajara Barracks. He said the ram had juju inserted into its stomach and buried at the football field inside the Barracks. He told the Commission that he had no idea whatsoever about the death of the ram. He said he spent four nights at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in an underground cell.
He said during the political impasse, he was arrested and detained at a secret detention centre around the Jeshwang Prisons. He said he was detained there for a week or more without family access.
He said during the political impasse, he was approached by General Saul Badjie to fix explosion at the GNPC petrol stations; this was aimed to dirty the name of the Coalition; that they wanted to create havoc in the country. He said Badjie told him that the people (the Coalition) were here for vengeance.
“Badjie promised me that he would take care of my welfare,” he said.
He said he did not turn the offer outright but he told some of the soldiers close to him that he will join the Coalition whenever Jammeh’s tenure elapses. He said at this time, he was in charge of the welfare of all soldiers’ dispatch at strategic locations during the impasse.
He said days later, Lieutenant Noah Williams headed a group of soldiers to arrest him at the Fajara Barracks. He said he was released on the 20th January 2017, which was a day before Yahya Jammeh left the country.
He sincerely thanked Foroyaa Newspaper for the publication about his detention during the political impasse. He said it was the only newspaper that was bold to publish the story because the situation at that time was not favourable.
About the July 1994 coup, the witness said he was still working with the Turkish Training Team. On the morning of the day of the coup, he saw officers of the Army and some Gendarmerie officers running in different directions. He said he was told by one of the Gendarmerie officers who was also running that there was a rumour of mutiny and that the Fajara Barracks will be attacked by those embarking on the mutiny.
Thereafter, he said he went to the armoury and armed himself. He said the communication at the Barracks were uninstalled because he had attempted to contact the Turkish Trainers not to report to the Barracks because it was dangerous for them.
He told the Commissioners that he and some soldiers were arrested by Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Hydara as a well as some soldiers and taken to the Yundum Barracks where they were detained for some days.
He said he was later released from his detention and he reported to his duty post at the Gambia Army Training School as an instructor. He said November 11, 1994, incident he was residing at the Fajara Barracks as an instructor at the Training School. He said at this time, the AFPRC had smuggled weapons including a modified AK 47, PKMS and others from Ukraine.
He said on the 11th November 1994 should have been a day of graduation for the soldiers who did the training of trainers and the use of the newly smuggled weapons. He said on the early hours of the morning of the 11th, the Fajara Barracks was attacked by unknown people who fired from different locations. He said there was a rumour that the Barracks will be attacked by mercenaries. Captain Bah said he was part of some soldiers who fired at the attackers. He told the Commission that he later got the information that the attackers were the Council members and their soldiers.
“I was involved in sending counterfire (bullets) to the attackers and in the process to save my life and the life of my comrades,” he said.
He said days later, he was informed that some officers were executed by the attackers whereas some others were executed at the Yundum Barracks, Nyambai Forest and around Siffoe.
On his recommendation, he said the training course for the soldiers should be revised so that the soldiers can undergo professional training.