A distraught Nema Nasiru mum Ms. Penda Njie, was in tears when she spoke to Freedom Newspaper on Monday afternoon from Mali. She said her eighteen-year-old trafficked daughter Betty Bah, who is in the hands of traffickers, vehemently refused to join her to return home. The old woman has been in Mali for over two weeks searching for her daughter. She was later aided by the Malian Gendamerie to track down her daughter, who was living in a camp, where thousands of Senegalese, Gambians and other nationals have been hosted. The camp is located in Sego, in Southern Central Mali.
Efforts to have her daughter return home failed, as Betty Bah told her mum that she doesn’t want to return to The Gambia. She cried and shouted at her mum, in the presence of Malian law enforcement officers. She told her that she was a grown up lady and nothing can make her return to The Gambia.
The Gendam officer then told the old woman that there was nothing that he could do since Betty was an adult. The officer told her that Malian law doesn’t permit them to force her daughter to leave the country, thus the decision to return home was Betty’s calling.
Betty Bah recently finished her grade 12 class. She was lured into traveling to Mali by one of her relatives Ismaila Camara, also a trafficked Gambian.
“My daughter was lured into this Malian journey by Ismaila Camara, a relative of ours. Ismaila phoned her from Malia and told her that he could get her a job, where she could be paid a monthly salary of D50,000 dalasis. She was asked to pay 110,000 CFA franc in order to get that job. I gave her the money. I also paid for her D10,000 fares to Mali. When she arrived in Mali, she was never hired. She has been in Mali for over six months without a job. The traffickers would use them to lure others in The Gambia to join them in Mali,” Ms. Penda Njie told me in a phone interview.
“They normally call people in The Gambia, by promising them heaven and earth, that they would help them get high paying jobs once they join them in Mali, only to find out that such stories are lies and unfounded. The kids have been stranded there without jobs. Alieu Trawally, trafficked one of the girls called Assanatou Sallah. One of the escapees said there are no jobs in Mali, that they are being camped with other nationals, who are involved in criminal activities,” she added.
According to Penda Njie, her daughter, had lost weight when she saw her. She added that Betty had also developed a strange behavior.
“She never greeted me when she met me. She is skinny like a pin. She was very hostile to me, she nearly assaulted me. She cried all over the place, saying that she is not going home. As we speak, I am in Mali, my daughter refused to join me to return home. She is among the kids, who have been fooled to come here, she is living in Mali, without any job. She was trafficked her by her own relative Ismaila Camara,” she remarked.
The landlocked Mali has been battling with terrorism. The Tuareg rebels had taken over the northern part of the country in 2012 and declared the secession of a new state, Azawad, Wikipedia reported. They were repelled by the army.
A 31-year-old Gambian, who wished not to be named said he was also trafficked to Mali by one Muhammed Jawara. Muhammed is a resident of Latrikunda Sabji. His mum now lives in Fajikunda.
He said Jawara had promised to secure him a D34,000 dalasis monthly job. He quits his restaurant job to join Jawara in Mali. He closed his local restaurant and headed for Mali, where he later found out that Muhammed had lied to him.
When he arrived in Mali, he said, Jawara, asked him to join him in the town of Sego, which is about ten hours’ drive from the capital city Bamako. The thirty-one-year-old refused. He was lucky to be hosted by a Gambian.
“Muhammed Jawara lied to me. There is no job here in Mali. He (Muhammed) himself has no job. They are engaged in criminal activities here. What they normally do is that they would call The Gambia to lure people to join them in Mali. Once you pay your money, you will lose it. They will detain you at a camp and compel you to recruit others to join you in Sego. There was this Senegalese guy, who fought with his trafficker, he insisted that he should be allowed to leave, and he was finally released,” he said.
“I am currently raising money to return home. I am selling textiles. I want to return home before Ramadan. I came here two weeks after the naming ceremony of my son. I left my wife and family behind. I closed my restaurant because of Muhammed Jawara. He lied to me,” he added.
The trafficked kids often travel by bus from Banjul to Mali. In Sego, they are poorly fed. As evident on this picture, young Muhammed Jawara, was in good shape, when he boarded that bus from Banjul to Mali.
But the picture published below, had showed that he has lost weight because of insufficient food. The kids spent hours without eating.
Muhammed Jawara was contacted by phone, but he couldn’t be reached for comment. His phone was on voicemail.
Also, speaking to the Freedom Newspaper, was Sulayman Jallow, the Public Relations Officer of The Gambian community in Mali. Bah tells Freedom Newspaper that a good number of Gambians and Senegalese nationals have been stranded in Sego without jobs. He said the migrants were lured into Mali, by their own fellow countrymen and women with the promise of securing them high paying jobs, but only to find themselves in controlled camps.
“We are pleading with you to please help expose this story. Our people are suffering here, they are sitting here under difficult conditions. This old woman traveled all the way from The Gambia to search for her daughter. Her daughter is refusing to return home, she has no job, she is mingling with criminals,” Bah remarked.
Bah said they have been trying to get in touch with The Gambian Consul General in Mali, so that the plight of the trafficked Gambian nationals could be investigated and help repatriate them back home.
When contacted for comment, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Saikou Ceesay said: “This is news to me. I am just hearing it for the first time. We will verify the veracity of the report because we have a dynamic honorary consul in Mali, who is working with our Embassy in Senegal.”
Ceesay has reaffirmed The Gambian government’s commitment to fighting human trafficking.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai
Email: [email protected]