A Gambian army corporal, who was falsely accused of possessing Gambian citizenship through false pretense and was subsequently dismissed from the force, following the change of government in December of 2016, has rebuffed claims made by the Government spokesman Ebrima G Sankareh, who recently told a news conference that (he) Omar Sarjo, the accused former soldier, has since left the country to return to his place of birth Casamance, Freedom Newspaper can report. Sankareh also cited an investigation that he said, was conducted by the state, and it was found out that Omar Sarjo, is the son of the MFDC rebel leader Salifu Sarjo. He added that Mr. Sarjo was henceforth dismissed from the force because of his false claims of being a Gambian citizen.
Sankareh doubled down on his claims during his usual Tuesday morning “coffee time” radio program with Peter Gome’s West Coast radio. He says Omar Sarjo was sacked from the army because of his lack of papers to proof his Gambian citizenship. He added that the soldier had since left the country for Casamance.
Reacting to Sankareh’s allegations, Mr. Omar Sarjo told Freedom radio Gambia that Sankareh’s claims were the figment of his own imagination. He says the government spokesman’s claims were not only false, but totally unfounded.
“I am still in this country. I never travel to Casamance, as falsely claimed by Ebrima Sankareh. I am a born Gambian citizen. I was born and raised in Kabebkel, in the Kombos. Salifu Sarjo is not my father. I don’t know Salifu Sarjo. I have never seen Salifu Sarjo. I only saw Salifu Sarjo on television, when the Gambian government mediated for the release of the captured Senegalese soldiers, this was during Jammeh’s government. I have never met Salifu Sarjo in my life. How can I run to Casamance when I do not know the relatives, I have in Casamance? I have never been to Casamance since I was sacked from the army. I have always been in Kabebkel. I don’t know where Sankareh is getting his information from. Perhaps, he is referring to a different Omar Sarjo. I got a job. I now work at the Kunta Kinteh hotel as a security guard,” Mr. Sarjo said.
Omar Sarjo was a baby when he lost his mum and Dad. His late dad Alasana Sarjo and late mum Mariama Manneh are natives of Kabebkel village. He was raised by his stepdad Yusupha Sarjo after the death of his biological dad.
“I was a baby when my parents died. I cannot remember them. I had their pictures. I was told that my Dad first died, and my mum died later. My late parents are Gambians. I attended school in The Gambia. I dropped out of school from grade nine. My stepdad couldn’t pay for my tuition fee. I later enrolled into the army. I was posted to the Farafenni military base after my army training. I had spent ten years at the Farafenni army barracks. I was later transferred to the Yundum barracks in 2014. In total, I had served my country for 13 years,” Mr. Sarjo remarked.
Sarjo added that his sacking was orchestrated by the United Democratic party (UDP) militants, who used WhatsApp to smear his image by claiming that he is the son of the MFDC rebel leader Salifu Sarjo. He says his former boss CDS Masaneh Kinteh, was equally determined to purge the Jolla soldiers and officers in the army once he was hired as CDS by the onetime UDP majority led government. He says he was fired together with other Jolla army officers, following the change of government in 2017.
“I am a victim of blackmail. I am a victim of tribalism. They cooked up a lie that I am not a Gambian citizen when they are not more Gambian than me. I was detained at the Yudum barracks for three months after my sacking from the army. My case was investigated by the State Intelligence Services (SIS). They do not have proofs to ascertain their claims that I am not a Gambian. Their story was based on fake news that was trafficked by the UDP, and some section of the media. I once listened to Star FM and heard the late Sarjo Barrow, falsely reporting on air that I enrolled into the army in 1995. I was in my third grade in 1995. I was young at the time. He even communicated threats toward me, by saying that I should be killed. I was so worried. Everyone was talking about me. They have destroyed my image and reputation through the circulation of lies. I even feel embarrassed to walk along the streets. They are calling me a non-Gambian when I am a Gambian,” he added.
Mr. Sarjo has been charged by the Immigration Department for illegally possessing a Gambian citizenship. He is currently going to court with the state.
“They want to deport me to Casamance, Senegal, a country that I was not born. If I am deported, I would become a refugee in Senegal. I will be stateless person. I have relatives in Casamance, but I do not know them. I only been to Casamance in 2012, during our traditional circumcision. I left with other soldiers and police officers. I was there for one month. It was approved by the army. I haven’t been to Casamance since 2012. I don’t know Casamance. I don’t even know Foni. I am from Kombo,” he said.
Mr. Sarjo’s passport and other travel documents have been seized by the state. He cannot travel at this time.
“When they fired me from the army, a relative of mine wanted to help me to travel to Europe. I applied to renew my passport and was told by the Immigration to get an Alkalo’s attestation letter. I was issued with an attestation by Timonthy Sarjo, the Alkalo of our village. Timonthy is my brother. My application was declined, even though I had provided the relevant documents that I was asked to produce. They later accused me of obtaining a Gambian national document through fraudulent means,” he said.
Omar Sarjo, 38 years of age, said his former commander Colonel Sait Njie wasn’t even convinced when he was marched to Njie’s office on the allegations that he is not a Gambian national. He added that Njie later asked him to go about his business. He says he had worked with Colonel Njie and Samba Baldeh, the former Yundum barracks commander.
According Mr. Sarjo, President Barrow, has been misled by the people around him. He says it was wrong for the former CDS Masaneh Kinteh to target the minority Jolla officers in the army for purging.
“Masaneh Kinteh had an agenda when he was rehired to head the army. He targeted us the Jollas. No Mandinka was sacked. The majority of the soldiers and officers sacked were Jollas. I think President Barrow has been misled. He should look into our case. We are victims of tribalism. We were sacked because of our ethnicity. Interestingly, Yahya Jammeh didn’t know me, he cannot recognize me, I have never been to the State House. I am not related to Jammeh. Jammeh has never given me money or property. If Salifu Sarjo was my father, as falsely claimed, do you think I would be posted at Farafenni? I have been to Kanilai only once. We were taken there to work on Jammeh’s farm. We returned to Farafenni, the same day. The allegations that I am Salifu Sarjo’s son is a blatant lie,” he added.
Sarjo’s story has left some Freedom radio Gambia listeners crying. They couldn’t believe that an orphan like Omar Sarjo, would be treated in such an inhumane manner—given the 13 years services that he had served his country. Sarjo says he has never tortured or killed any Gambian during Jammeh’s rule. He also says he was never part of Jammeh’s assassin squad called the jungullars.
“I had faithfully, honestly and sincerely serve my country for 13 good years. I joined the army as a school dropped out. I have no other country that I know of other than The Gambia. I was born and raised in this country. It would be sad if they should deport me to Casamance. I have endured enough pain, exposure, nightmares, and embarrassment since my unlawful sacking. As we speak, I am struggling to put food on the table for my family. I had two kids and a wife to look after. I have no Gambian papers to be able to receive wired money in my name. If anyone should help me, it should be sent through my wife’s name. I had no papers to use to identify myself in my own country,” Sarjo sadly narrated.
Some Freedom radio listeners have expressed interest in extending financial help to Mr. Sarjo. Sarjo said he could be reached by phone at this number: +2207664063.
Sarjo has also called on President Barrow to use his good office to make an end to such an abuse of authority. He says he should be left alone since he had been kicked out from the army without genuine legal reason.
Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai
Email: [email protected]