Gambia’s former Vice President and leader of the United Democratic Party Ousainou Darboe on Monday appeared before the country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Darboe testified on the trials and tribulations he and his party supporters have endured in the hands of dictator Jammeh’s two-decade rule.
Lawyer Ousainou Darboe’s opposition to the former military junta started back in July of 1994. Darboe and his colleagues in the Gambia Bar Association had met with the coup leaders and told them to consider returning the country to civilian rule. He has also led a boycott to celebrate Gambia’s Legal Year anniversary.
“I led that group; that we cannot really attend a legal year celebrations presided over by a man in military uniform; some people have overthrown the constitution of The Gambia, we cannot rob shoulders with them; and they telling us about the rule of law, when in fact they have assaulted the constitution,” Darboe tells the TRRC.
Soon after the ban on political activities was lifted back in 1996, Darboe would start to have problems with the junta. He ventured into politics and became the leader of the United Democratic Party.
He accused Jammeh and his colleagues of stealing $3 million dollars during the 1996 campaign trail. He alleged that the former Junta Spokesman Ebou Jallow, former Chairman Yahya Jammeh, and his fellow council members had benefited from the alleged stolen Taiwanese funds.
He also raised the murder of Gambia’s former Finance Minister Ousman Koro Ceesay. He says he had always insisted that the government should investigate the death of Koro Ceesay.
Darboe’s allegations never went down well with the junta. It infuriated the former Vice Chairman of the AFPRC government Edward Singhateh, who had filed a complaint with the provisional electoral commission—accusing Darboe of making unsubstantiated allegations against the former junta.
Darboe says he was threatened after making the theft allegations against the junta.
“One thing was very prominent, Yankuba Touray did say that when I returned from the provinces, I would be burnt,” Darboe adduced in evidence.
The UDP Leader says he felt threatened by Touray’s threats against him.
Yankuba Touray was a council member of the defunct AFPRC military junta. He also served as Local Government Minister during Jammeh’s rule.
In a Facebook status posting, Ebou Jallow, the former Junta Spokesperson jokingly said: ” Ousainou woo Ousainou, LOL! Why didn’t you tell Essa Faal that I was the one that sent you the “court documents” after you begged my late mother to talk to me… BTW you have exposed UDP to be a very belligerent political party- violent and scandalous. Your performance before the TRRC today was very mediocre for an “accomplished lawyer.”
Darboe also went further to explain how he and his supporters were harassed while touring the country during the 1996 Presidential election campaign. Some UDP officials and supporters were arrested, he said.
“ When we arrived in Kerewan, the APRC were creating problems for us. In fact, Siaka Sonko, the head of my security team was so apprehensive; he said look, I have change my accommodation and my response was that.. look if you can’t protect me, I will protect myself; I am not moving out of this place. I stayed on, but then I don’t know how it happened; that night Siaka was arrested and taken away,” he said.
Siaka Sonko was a former police chief during President Jawara’s rule. He was sent on an interdiction (administrative leave) together with some of his colleagues, following allegations of Gold dust theft scandal. Sonko was finally fired from the force.
Darboe tells the TRRC that one Kebba Fatty, also a former police anti-narcotic officer, replaced Sonko after the arrest of Siaka Sonko.
Darboe has suffered numerous arrests in the hands of Jammeh’s security agents. Back in 2000, he was charged with murder together with over ninety UDP officials and supporters.
An APRC driver was killed during that bloody political violence in Basse. The charges were later dropped. This followed a political violence between his supporters and Jammeh’s APRC supporters.
“We subsequently discovered that the APRC July 22nd Movement chaps had gone out with instruments that should be used in burying people. There were pickaxes, axes and cutlasses in their vehicle. In fact, one of the vehicles was burnt and that vehicle I want to believe it was burnt by our people; the UDP,” Darboe testified.
Lead Counsel Essa Faal told Darboe that it was wrong for his party supporters to burn a government vehicle. Faal also maintains that the UDP should have properly investigated the incident and if need be; take the necessary actions to avoid a replica of such an incident.
Dr. Lamin Sise, the Chairman for Gambia’s TRRC, commended Darboe, for showing up to give evidence. Sise is a former United Nations official.
“ Mr. Darboe, thank you so much for taking time to come. You really have demonstrated great resilience—both physically and intellectually in your testimony. Thus withstanding, the threats, harassment and intimidation, you shouldered on all these years. That was commendable,” Dr. Sise said.
Over the years, the UDP supporters have been target of arrest, torture and in some occasions murder. Darboe has been rescheduled to appear before the TRRC, where he is expected to make his closing remarks.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai