The Seemingly Self-Contradictory Testimony of Mr. Ousainou Darboe at the TRRC
I was prosecuted by Lawyer Darboe for Allegedly Making a Phone Call to Former President Sir Dawda Jawara in 1994. An Allegation That Was Later Proven To Be False
I was following the testimony of the UDP leader Mr. Darboe and was shocked to hear that he was placed under detention in 1995 during the early days of the AFPRC regime for allowing Honorable M.C. Cham, a former minister in the Jawara government, to use his phone to contact Ex-President Jawara in his office which he said was not a crime.
Well, as a critic of former regime I was one of the first to be victimized when I was working at GAMTE for allegedly using my official telephone line to contact members of Jawara’s party who were in exile in the UK. Paradoxically, Mr. Darboe who was the lawyer of GAMTEL at the time, defended the action of the country’s ruling military junta for my dismissal on the grounds that allowing other staff members to use my official telephone to contact ex-President Sir Dawda Jawara was a crime.
I was arrested by Mr. Nai Ceesay who was the then director of Immigration together with a group of armed soldiers. My passport was seized and I was placed at the back of a military truck with heavily-armed soldiers taken straight to the Police headquarters in Banjul where my statement was obtained under duress as I was about to be taken to the ‘gallows’ and tortured. At the time of my arrest I was the then financial manager and was sufficiently knowledgeable about all the financial transactions that were alleged to have been illegally made during the first and second Phase of the GAMTEL’s project to expand its networks.
Upon arrival at the station I was badly manhandled and taken to a room where I found Mr. Foday Barry, Mr. Lamin Jobarteh and one Mr. Bah or Jallow. During the interrogation it emerged that my arrest had to do with a particular phone call that was made from my official phone to a number in the UK that was traced to be that of Ex-President Jawara’s . The allegation was that I was constantly in touch with the former President and Mr. Sara Janha, who happened to be my cousin, giving out sensitive information about the situation in the country. A fallacious allegation that was later proven to be false.
I vehemently denied making any calls to the former president or Sara Janha. In response to the question whether other people in the office were using my telephone, I answered in the affirmative and gave them a list of people that had access to my office. One of them was identified as Mrs. Tida Sima Cham, the wife of Mr. Pa Cham, the former MD of the Gambia Ports Authority.
Mrs. Cham confirmed making those calls from my office as she wanted to contact the wife of the former President, Lady Chilel Jawara, just to check on her whether everything was fine with her and the family. As she stated in her statement that was the only time she talked to her after the coup as she was not only a friend, but her aunt. This was the time when they realized that I might be reinstated since I never committed the crime I was accused of.
Shortly after my arrest, GAMTEL decided to take me to court to recover all the loans I took that were outstanding at the time of my dismissal. I was not only arrested but my services were terminated from GAMTEL with immediate effect even before the facts of the case were made known to the authorities. Contrary to the erroneous perception that some people have against Mr. Foday Barry and Lamin Jobarteh, they were relentless in their efforts to have me reinstated back to my job after realizing that I had nothing to do with that call.
Although Mr. Darboe later became a vociferous opponent of Yaya JAMMEH, how he was in support of Yaya Jammeh and the Juntas ready to take me to court beats my imagination. As the lawyer for GAMTEL, Mr. Ousainou Darboe was defending the action of the AFPRC to terminate my services based on the allegation that I was using my official line to call the ex-President. That time making a call to Sir Dawda Jawara was a crime. With his testimony at the TRRC, Mr. Darboe told the Commission that there was nothing wrong for allowing Mr. M.C. Cham to make calls to Ex-President Jawara in his office. How paradoxical?
This self-contradictory statements from Mr. Darboe compelled me to come forward to set the record straight and show what happened to me in 1994 as a young man in his early thirties trying to carry out my job with honesty only to be framed and accused of a serious crime against the state. I used to report to the police regularly for almost a year. Twenty five years later, I still carry a scar in my finger as a constant reminder of the tortures meted out to me by the AFPRC.
I do not want to be seen as disrespecting Mr. Darboe whom I have enormous respect, but I am finding it difficult to reconcile what constitute a crime by making phone calls to a former President. In fact I did pay a private visit to Lawyer soon after his release from jail to express my profound delight for his freedom. Evidently, I was one of those who campaign extensively for his release through the pages of the Freedomnewspaper albeit anonymously for obvious reasons.
That is why I prefer to use the same platform to reach out to many of your esteemed readers knowing its stand for the truth. I would have sent my untold story to the TRRC but I have a long story to tell that can be touching to so many individuals in this society. For the moment I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.
It gives me immense pleasure every time I see former President Jawara on TV spending his extraordinary time back in the Gambia and not having to live a pretty solitary life in exile. It is also comforting to know that after twenty-five years, making phone calls to Ex-President Jawara is no longer a crime.
Alieu O. FAAL