Going by the November 25, 2020 press conference of the TRRC Czar, Mr. Essa Faal, their next round of  sittings will focus mainly on the 2005 “Ghanaian migrant victims” whose execution in the country, according to some “prisoner-Junglers” was ordered by former president Yahya Jammeh on the premonition that they were mercenaries from Senegal who came to overthrow the APRC government. That was precisely the attestation of “prisoner-Junglers” Omar A. Jallow aka Oya, and his colleague Malick Jatta who on their appearance before the TRRC in July 2019 also confessed to have taken part in the merciless execution and dumping of their bodies in untraceable wells somewhere in Casamance, Southern Senegal.

I chose to describe the witnesses as “prisoner-Junglers” because soon after the change of the APRC government in 2017, these folks for merely being identified as members of the infamous “Junglers” were rounded up and unlawfully incarcerated at Mile-Two Central Prison for two years, not charged, not provided with legal council-the very taboo of the TRRC ‘Never again’ slogan-until when offered the shady deal of appearing before the commission and confessing to their crimes and further attributing them to obeying orders received from “Ex-President Yahya Jammeh”, that if pleasant to their ears, will earn them their freedom to go home.

Hence those who satisfied that benchmark of saying exactly what the commission deemed the “truth” namely Omar A. Jallow and Malick Jatta, the mighty  Essa Faal and Baa Tambadou granted them their freedom from jail; whereas their counterparts who refused to admit any culpability in the manner expected still languish in jail; by Essa Faal’s and his fellow judges’ touchstone, their recalcitrance proved them guilty of lying, a crime punishable by indefinite and unlawful imprisonment. The “Never again” sign hanging right above the heads of these “God-chosen adjudicators” didn’t seem to matter much to any of them.

On an unrelated but similar subversion of the Gambia justice system, some “God-Chosen adjudicators” normalized the incarceration and trial of former NIA Director General Yankuba Badjie (Jola) and his assistants for being handed over the arrested group of UDP demonstrators led by the late Solo Sandeng who unfortunately died under their custody and spared the IGP, Yankuba Sonko (non-Jola) and his assistants who ordered the PIU to arrest and illegally handed over the protesters to the NIA. In fact former IGP Sonko seems to be enjoying the reward of a ministerial position and now happily playing to the gallery of demonizing Yahya Jammeh’s “abusive government”, that he had loyally served for twenty-two years.

As much as the whole thing stinks high way to the heavens, I know for sure that the debatable testimony of these poor  “prisoner-Junglers” inadvertently emboldened the victims’ families in Ghana to pursue the case in international courts and well cognizant of the availability of sufficient Gambian activists willing to help them win the case and improve their fortunes tremendously; The ECOWAS courts could indeed rule in their favor and force the Gambia government to settle an incalculable compensation bill that might end up bankrupting the government coffers in a hemorrhaging economy from the destructive effects of the COVID-19-pandemic. Although just as during the 2016 impasse when zealous antagonists of the APRC government at home and abroad cared less about the consequence of waging a war in the Gambia as long as Jammeh had to be killed or captured, similar breed of Gambian zealots in and out of the country now believe that if paying the foreign victims’ families will ultimately translate into bankrupting Gambia’s national treasure so be it.

However had it not been the Gambia TRRC, primarily designed to capture and punish Jammeh, coupled with the dubious testimony of the “prisoner-Junglers”, particularly Oya & Jatta, the case as far as I know was long ago considered settled by the two governments of the Gambia and Ghana.

Mark you, there were other reported nationals among them, numbering 56 altogether whose family members may also sooner or later come forward to demand compensation.

Nonetheless it is certain that at some point, the UN and ECOWAS had commissioned an independent investigating team that came to the Gambia and exhaustively looked into the case and came up with a report agreeable to both governments that settled the case amicably. They conclusively blamed the incident on intelligence failure that is common in government operations.

To contextualize that, scholars often attribute the worst intelligence failure of the millennium to the causation of the invasion of Iraq by America in 2003 that did not only start the ongoing and uncontrollable destabilization of the Arab world but has destroyed untold number of lives, families and properties and now poses an existential threat to Europe societies and Western Civilization in general.

It was reported that the Senior commanders of the Gambia Armed Forces, the Gambia Police Force and the Gambia National Intelligence Agency were all involved in ill-advising Jammeh about the strange migrants and executed his orders to arrest them. So instead of starting with the “prisoner Junglers” after subjecting them to intimidating conditions and then asking for their confessions, I think the TRRC should have started with the security-service chiefs at the time, among whom several are still serving the Barrow government under conditions of no pressure to fabricate stories.

The likes of Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko and former Inspector General of Police Essa Badgie (Jesus) whose names have recently surfaced in the culpability index, should have been the first to appear before the TRRC to shed better light on what happened than these lower-grade “prisoner-Junglers” obeying orders from their superiors. In all cases however, top-ranking officers are not at all excusable from prosecution by neither the Geneva Convention nor international military law.

Witnesses on that faithful day had definitively identified the then head of the NIA the late Daba Marena, the head of the GAF at the time Commodore Assan Sarr, now the Gambia defense attache in Nigeria together with his assistant Captain Sarjo Fofana, and the late CDS Ndure Cham for the active role they played in informing Jammeh and arresting and detaining the migrants soon after their entry into the Gambia from Senegal. They also handed all of them over to the police before the Junglers got them.

Another inconspicuous but very important character linked to the case is a Senegalese human trafficker whom the migrants had accordingly paid to transport them from Senegal to the shores of Europe but had no means of doing so. The conman then arranged for vehicles that transported them to the Gambia where a mysterious vessel was to take them across the Mediterranean Sea.

While in their plan to bring international witnesses from Ghana to appear before the TRRC I hope Czar Essa Faal would seriously explore the possibility of getting that Senegalese through Interpol.

However upon their arrival in the Gambia, security chiefs named above apprehended them.

At that moment, all their traveling documents were as customary taken by the Senegalese trafficker. That is the normal procedure just before departure in order to conceal the identity of the trafficker and the migrants’ nationalities from border guards at their disembarkation destination, which otherwise could lead to the arrest of the former and the automatic deportation of the latter to their home countries.

Not having ID cards contributed to their untrustworthiness in the Gambia and their namelessness throughout these years cast a serious doubt over who they were exactly, until recently when thanks to the TRRC, the Ghanaians are now coming up with actual names of “backway adventurers” who left home and disappeared in thin air. Even those six or seven bodies that were eventually recovered and kept in the Banjul morgue never had their names and family backgrounds identified.

When the APRC government in a goodwill gesture sent US$500,000.00 to the government of Ghana to help the affected families after the settlement of the case, the matter apparently turned into a huge scandal because no victims’ families could be found and those entrusted with the cash shared it among theselves.

While on the case again, I would like Czar Essa Faal to quiz the service chiefs on how they arrived at treating the migrants as mercenaries, if there were not and reporting them to Jammeh as being so and why they allowed their killing to happen on their watch. Who was the Justice Minister at the time? Did the Senegalese trafficker pay the Army, Police and NIA Chiefs to frame the victims?

In my conclusion I will want to remind the Gambians why it was so easy to convince Jammeh and his government of the migrants being bad hombres from Senegal on a mission to overthrow his government:

  1. November 11, 1994 after the failed counter coup of the AFPRC government, four months into the July takeover, the perpetrators who escaped were all given political asylum in Senegal where they were free to plot and attack the Gambia again. Three years later few of those dissidents living in a military barracks in Casamance, left their houses on July 21, 1997 to attack Kartong military Barracks in an effort to overthrow the APRC government. They killed some soldiers before being captured.
  2. The year before, in November 1996, Kukoi Samba Sanyang, Senegal’s most loathed enemy from the 1981 abortive coup against the PPP government, assembled his band of international mercenaries from Liberia to Senegal where they had lived for a while under the protection of the Joof government before attacking the Farafeni Barracks with the intention of toppling the government. Some escaped but most were captured after they succeeded in killing some GAF soldiers. That was during Abdou Joof’s presidency.
  3. However, while Abdoulie Wade was Senegal’s president, we were also aware of the numerous attempts by special agents of his government to destabilize or overthrow the APRC government including incidents when Kukoi Samba Sanyang had to be invited again to help. Jammeh had to protest to the international community for Kukoi to be forced out of Senegal to go to Mali on exile where he unfortunately passed away. RIP! Those were before 2005. The Mackey Sall era after that had developed similar conspiratorial  schemes creating the likes of Seedia Bayo and Ndure Cham snafu.

However by 2005, the fear of what type of national security threat from Senegal would emerge against the Gambia was no longer about if but about when. Senegal had indeed became the scariest nation to the APRC government like the Atlantic Ocean was to African leaders concerned with protecting their people from European slave catchers and their collaborators during the Slave Trade where the frequent appearance of dreaded-slave ships had meant the capturing and killing of Africa’s finest and most able-bodied young men and women. Yes, every appearance of attackers from the “Ocean of Senegal” had caused the cold-blooded murder of young Gambian men in uniform. Besides, Mackey Sall was inclined to butcher every Gambia to end the APRC government in 2017 with the collaboration of Gambians.

So I will hate to say this, but based on their past experiences, the Gambia Security Chiefs in 2005 may have gathered enough evidence to confirm the strangers from Senegal of embarking in another mischievous mission mastermind by their government. It’s just hunch!

The next sitting of the TRRC scheduled to begin on December 7, 2020 should therefore be very interesting; I need to finally close this chapter in my book about these migrants. I also expect to hear about the identity and cases of the other nationals different from the Ghanaians and obviously about the Senegalese trafficker.

Thanks for reading.

Samsudeen Sarr

Banjul, the Gambia.

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